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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jonathan Worth Daniels, March 9-11, 1977. Interview A-0313. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Daniels's father eschewed exclusive organizations

Daniels describes the triumph of Reconstruction as the revival of patriotism among his family members. Unlike his father's side, Daniels's mother's family reveled in exclusive patriotic organizations. His father opposed such groups because of their elitist stance. His anti-aristocratic view emerged out of his allegiance to working class men.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jonathan Worth Daniels, March 9-11, 1977. Interview A-0313. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

So did you grow up with a pretty standard view of Reconstruction as a pretty horrible experience?
Not as a horrible experience, a heroic experience. My mother's family belonged to every patriotic organization known in the world, from the Society of Mayflower Descendants, Colonial Dames, this, that, and the other. They were apparently very popular at that period in the South. And she had an aunt named Elvira who, every Christmas, joined her into a different, new patriotic society, and so my mother had to pay dues for the rest of her life. [Laughter] Mother's people were very . . . Some of them had just bosoms full of badges. And my father took no part in that. He didn't believe in any organization that everybody couldn't get into. My Grandfather Bagley had been a very prominent Oddfellow, and they kind of pushed him to join the Oddfellows. And he was going down the initiation line and found out that one of the other fellows being initiated was a man he had publicly declared was a blackguard of the worst sort. [Laughter] So he said he didn't want to be a brother of any such as that, and so he never belonged to any organization that wasn't open to everybody. When I went to Chapel Hill, he was violently against my joining a fraternity.
What was the basis of his belief that on one should belong to an organization that everyone couldn't belong to?
It was a sort of an anti-aristocratic view. He always regarded himself as a member of the working class or the class that worked with their hands. I think his father said that one reason he left the South was that there was no place in it for a white man who worked with his hands. And my father's defense of labor unions all his life was a sense that he came from working people. And he stuck to that pretty closely. My mother was always quite sympathetic, but her people, although Quakers, were pretty damn aristocratic.
How did your father reconcile associating himself with the working class, and in the twenties living in Wakestone, which was a mansion of sorts, wasn't it?
Yes, it was. He didn't have any sense that a man shouldn't make all he could, but he wanted in that process to be fair to the man who was working with his hands. He didn't have any sense that he ought to take the vow of poverty. And yes, Wakestone was, but he always claimed that he made it by having rocks thrown at him. [Laughter]