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Oral History Interview with Jonathan Worth Daniels, March 9-11, 1977. Interview A-0313. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    In this wonderfully candid interview, Jonathan Worth Daniels describes the political and social changes he witnessed from the early 1900s to the mid-1940s in North Carolina. Daniels was born into two prominent political North Carolinian families, the Bagleys and the Daniels, in 1902. Daniels's parents modeled paternalistic behavior in their dealings with the family's black servants. He recalls that race relations were pleasant, but notes that blacks were subservient to whites. Daniels's father, Josephus, actively participated in the 1898 white supremacy campaign by using his newspaper, the News and Observer, to disseminate Democratic and anti-black rhetoric. Josephus's opposition to black political power grew out of Reconstruction-era politics. Although his father provided significant political help with the white supremacist campaign in the late 1890s, Daniels remembers his father as helpful to black workers privately. When his father moved to Washington, D.C., as Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson, Daniels's own relationship with blacks changed; when he was a young child, blacks were his playmates, but during his adolescence, his social relationships with blacks came to an end. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill profoundly shaped Daniels's personal and professional life. As editor of college's newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, Daniels gained practical experience for his future career as an editor for the Raleigh News and Observer. His participation in the Carolina Playmakers theatre group enhanced his creative flair. After college, Daniels worked at a Louisville, Kentucky, paper under his uncle Judge Robert Bingham's tutelage. By the early 1930s, Daniels had written his first novel and moved to New York City to attend Columbia Law School. Harry Luce hired him to work with Fortune magazine. He later returned to Raleigh to serve as the editor of the Raleigh News and Observer. Daniels argues that racial views must be seen in the light of one's era. He also explains that the characteristics of effective leaders are largely decisiveness and action.
  • Racial paternalism posed limitations but also provided benefits for blacks
  • Josephus Daniels's role in North Carolina's 1898 white supremacist campaign
  • Reasons for Daniels's father's opposition to black political power
  • Daniels's father eschewed exclusive organizations
  • Benefits of white paternalism for blacks
  • Black and white children reflected the separate and unequal philosophy of their era
  • The disadvantages of poverty, especially in public schools
  • Increasing awareness of racial differences
  • Replicating the gender dynamics of his parents
  • Josephus Daniels used his newspaper to extend his religious and ethical beliefs
  • Daniels's father actively campaigned to disenfranchise black voters
  • Daniels's father combined his religious beliefs with his thoughts on other social issues
  • Southern fears of atheism in the early twentieth century
  • The characteristics of effective leaders
  • Complicated nature of race relations
  • Humorous account of Daniels's gambling skill
  • Professional ethics when reporting on sensational stories
  • Nell Battle Lewis transforms from liberal to reactionary after a mental illness
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • North Carolina--Race relations
  • North Carolina--Politics and government
  • Press and politics--North Carolina
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.