June 17, 2020 at 10:17 AM EDT – Updated June 17 at 10:17 AM
RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Wake County Board of Education on Tuesday voted unanimously to rename a middle school that was named after a known white supremacist.
Daniels Magnet Middle School in Raleigh will be renamed Oberlin Middle School, the board decided. The school had been named after Josephus Daniels.
Daniels played a vital role in creating The News & Observer, but was also known as a racist and white supremacist, according to a statement from the Daniels family on Tuesday.
“Many of you are probably saying, ‘It’s just a name,’ but there’s a lot in a name,” Wake County Board of Education Chairman Keith Sutton said.
Hudgins Brock will start the 7th grade at Oberlin Middle School in the fall. He says he never knew the history behind his school’s former name, but now that he does, he’s glad it was changed.
“I think it’s a great change. I don’t want to be named after someone who did not do great things, who did awful things,” he said.
His mother, Sarah Brock, agreed.
“I think this was an important message to share with our youth, and I’m very proud of our school board’s decision,” she said.
Daniels wrote in a Raleigh News and Observer editorial on Jan. 28, 1900, that “The greatest folly and crime in our national history was the establishment of [N]egro suffrage immediately after the [Civil] War. Not a single good thing has come of it, but only evil,” according to an excerpt from an article that appeared in a 1999 issue of American Journalism.
“This is a very important step. I understand some may say it’s symbolic in a lot of ways, but one that I think is long overdue,” said Sutton.
Daniels’ great-grandson, Frank Daniels III, came in from Nashville, Tennessee, to see the statue removed and said the time was right to remove it from public property.
He said his family didn’t want Daniels to be a symbol of racism.
“Every individual is remembered in the ways that’s interpreted by your context. Our context of Josephus is colored by how well we knew him. We all have feet of clay. We all have things that we’ve done that are regrettable. The thing that we regret about his past is something that becomes increasingly indefensible as we look at what is happening in America and across the world. So we don’t want to have a symbol of that as a part of our legacy in our service to North Carolina.” – Frank Daniels III
A statement from the former publisher of The News & Observer, Frank A. Daniels, Jr., on behalf of the Daniels family, can be read in full below:
“In the fall of 1984, the Daniels family commissioned and placed a statue of Josephus Daniels in a public park across the street from The News & Observer to acknowledge his role in creating one of the nation’s leading newspapers.
This morning we removed the statue from Nash Square. We have placed it in storage until we can find a suitable location on private property.
Josephus Daniels’ legacy of service to North Carolina and our country does not transcend his reprehensible stance on race and his active support of racist activities.
In the 75 years since his death, The N&O and our family have been a progressive voice for equality for all North Carolinians, and we recognize this statue undermines those efforts.” – Frank A. Daniels Jr.
The family told CBS 17 they had been talking about removing the statue for the last five years, but “the protests [brought] home the need to remove it sooner than later.”
The family owns the statue and the land on which it sat is public property. The family said they came to an agreement with the City of Raleigh to remove it and gain access to the property to do so.
An agreement was signed with the city Monday and went through the city attorney and the Raleigh Parks Department.
An online petition that was started before the statue was removed called for Wake County leaders to change the name of Daniels Magnet Middle School in Raleigh.
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