‘I don’t think anyone would say that it’s not the appropriate time to move the statue of Josephus to a more appropriate location…’
(Michael Barnes, Liberty Headlines) A statue of Josephus Daniels was quietly taken down early Tuesday morning without desecration, violence or media-fueled mob anarchy.
Rather than being toppled and trashed, the statue of one of North Carolina’s most influential racists was carefully removed from its perch in Raleigh’s Nash Square, a downtown park in the state’s capital city.
It was wrapped in a blue tarp to protect against scratches and chips and placed on a flatbed trailer to be transported and re-erected at a less public location.
The removal was not a Black Lives Matter spectacle. In fact, there was no pressure from activists or the liberal Raleigh city council, according to news reports. Instead, the removal was sanctioned by the Daniels family and assisted by city officials—and potentially paid for with taxpayer funds.
Many might be wondering, why now? And why the double standard?
“The time is right,” Frank Daniels III said in an interview with The State.
“I don’t think anyone would say that it’s not the appropriate time to move the statue of Josephus to a more appropriate location,” the wealthy former newsman said of his great-grandfather.
But for all the Democratic endorsements, political donations—including support for disgraced former North Carolina senator and presidential candidate John Edwards—and progressive posturing of the modern Daniels family, only now do they think the statue of the family’s patriarch is a problem.
The Daniels family appears to have changed this week, but history didn’t.
The family’s deep media ties and Democratic Party roots may well be the reason they have been given a pass at a time when similar statues are being desecrated across the South. The special treatment is especially stark given the shocking legacy of Josephus Daniels.
Born in 1862, Josephus Daniels was the editor and publisher of the News and Observer newspaper from the post-Civil War Reconstruction period until his death in 1948.
The News and Observer was North Carolina’s largest paper, and Daniels was a prominent Democratic figure who served as secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson (another noted racist and progressive who has been spared current mob excesses).
Daniels was also a close friend and supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had been Daniels’s top Navy aide during World War I.
Daniels believed that “the greatest folly and crime” in U.S. history was giving “Negroes” the right to vote.
He flooded the News and Observer with harsh news reports, ruthless editorials, incendiary letters and front-page cartoons so racist that the paper and the Daniels family would be immediately destroyed in today’s social-media-driven “cancel culture.”
According to historians, Daniels was terrified that Southern blacks would gain political power, so he used his newspaper to conjure fears of what was described as the horrors of “Negro rule.”
The evil propaganda helped fuel widespread hatred of black Americans, and historians credit Daniels with fomenting lynch mobs as well as the violent overthrow of a duly elected local government in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898.
Why did Daniels target Wilmington? Because residents elected a mixed-race mayor.
A heavily armed mob of 2,000 “Red Shirts,” a terrorist faction of the Democratic Party, set fire to black-owned businesses and the city’s newspaper. According to historian David Zuccino, the Red Shirts ravaged Wilmington, “terrorizing women and children and shooting at least 60 black men dead in the streets.”
Ultimately, the city’s elected officials were forced to resign at gunpoint.
Josephus Daniels is the only name mentioned as the cause of the “insurrection” in a 2006 Wilmington Race Riot Commission report. The report concluded that brutal event was the only successful armed coup d’état in American history.
Upon the release of the commission report, the News and Observer issued a weak statement of regret, offering “an apology for the acts of someone [Daniels] we continue to salute in a different context … and for the misdeeds of the paper as an institution.”
In 1900, Daniels used his influence to help pass Jim Crow legislation that broadly disenfranchised most blacks for decades, including excluding them from North Carolina’s political system.
Daniels was a virulent segregationist and a powerful supporter of the Klu Klux Klan, though he never claimed to be a member. He was a leading progressive of his time who helped initiate education reforms, women’s suffrage and the prohibition of alcohol.
There’s no mystery or debate about who Josephus Daniels was. But despite his legacy, the Daniels family and the 8-foot-tall statue of its most prominent member has been treated with kid gloves.
Moreover, the Daniels family is fabulously wealthy thanks to Josephus Daniels.
In 1995, the family sold the News and Observer to The McClatchy Company for $373 million. It had owned a controlling interest in the paper for 101 years.
On Tuesday, Frank Daniels Jr. issued a statement about his grandfather and the removal of the statue that stood in Nash Square for 34 years in commemoration of his legacy. The statement did not explain his family’s abrupt about-face, nor was he asked about it.
It did, however, fall short of an apology.
Daniels Jr. touted his family’s progressive activism and Democratic Party bona fides as proof that they are on the right side of history, eerily similar to Josephus Daniels.
“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,” he said.