Edward Bryant Rollins Jr., 84, died May 27, 2022, in Jacksonville of Stage IV esophageal cancer and Stage 4 AL cardiomyopathy, surrounded by loved ones.
He was born and raised in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston in 1937, the son of Edith Wade Rollins and Edward Bryant Rollins Sr.
A graduate of Boston’s English High School and Northeastern University, Bryant became an accomplished journalist, working at The Boston Globe and The New York Times. He founded The Bay State Banner, a Black newspaper that allowed him to both cover and participate in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He later edited The New York Amsterdam News, one of the nation’s premier Black newspapers. From that post, he was fired after he refused to buckle to editorial pressure urging him to offer more favorable coverage to New York City’s mayor.
Bryant involved himself deeply in the Civil Rights Movement in Boston, New York and in Mississippi where he helped organize a sharecropper-owned cooperative.
Bryant published two novels, co-authored entertainer Cab Calloway’s autobiography, and he co-scripted an award-winning off-Broadway play. He also worked with the Ford Foundation, administering a program for minority journalists at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Bryant left journalism to start a consulting firm focused on diversity and equity training for large corporations, colleges, government agencies and nonprofits. Working with his wife, Shirley, Bryant spent more than 40 years helping organizations break down barriers of race, gender, religion, age and other human and cultural differences.
In Jacksonville, Bryant and Shirley’s groundbreaking work transformed community conversations. They led an initiative in the 1990s to host Study Circles conversations about race across the city. They facilitated the St. Johns Cathedral’s Truth and Reconciliation Community, which brought Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Jacksonville. Even after retiring, they continued their work with organizations throughout the community.
He served on a number of boards, including Jax Chamber, the Jacksonville Civic Council and JCCI. He was among the first Blacks admitted to the Civic Council’s predecessor, the Non-Group.
Before he died, he finished a forthcoming memoir, The Slave in My Mirror. The family requests, in lieu of flowers, donations to support the publication of this work at https://bit.ly/bryantrollins.
He was predeceased by both of his parents and his oldest son, Khari Rollins. He leaves behind Shirley Stetson, his wife of 27 years; his daughter, Malikkah Rollins; his son, Salim (Fatma) Rollins; daughter-in-law, Kaitlin (Abraham) Schroeder; son-in-law, Stephen (Lisa) Kessler; his grandchildren, Miles Rollins, Azza Rollins, Asad Rollins, Mackenzie Kessler, Colby Kessler, Nathaniel Schroeder, Elodie Schroeder; his sister, Judith Rollins; and his cousins, Alyce, Henry, Linda and Alex.
Family and friends will celebrate Bryant’s life at the St. John’s Cathedral on Saturday, June 25 at 11 a.m. The service will be live-streamed on the Cathedral’s website.