Wake County to consider renaming middle school named after known white supremacist

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Friday, June 12, 2020
Wake County middle school named after white supremacist could be changed
Wake County middle school named after white supremacist could be changed

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The chairman of the Wake County School Board said he wants to change the name of one of his district's middle schools.

Daniels Magnet Middle School is named after Josephus Daniels.

In the 1890s, Daniels gained a controlling interest in the Raleigh News & Observer. He used the paper to promote white supremacy even calling the Fifteenth Amendment (which gave black people the right to vote) "the greatest folly and crime in our national history."

Daniels and the News & Observer were cited in a government report as being directly involved for the Wilmington Massacre of 1898. That is an event in North Carolina history noted by historians as a major turning point in Reconstruction but often left out of mainstream history classes.

The event was reported at the time as a race riot but later revealed for what it was: a violent a coup d'état organized by white supremacists. White supremacists from across the state descended on Wilmington, killing black people and ultimately overthrowing a duly elected government.

SEE ALSO: UNC to change plaques in Kenan Stadium to remove references to leader in Wilmington Massacre

A report commissioned in 2000 by the North Carolina state legislature, and not finished until 2006, identified Daniels as a main cause of the massacre.

Years after the Wilmington Massacre, Daniels, a Democrat, supported Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 presidential election. When Wilson won, Daniels was appointed Secretary of the Navy, which he led through World War I. He left government life in 1921, returning to the News & Observer, which his family owned until it was sold in 1995.

Now, his namesake is part of the Wake County Public School System.

School Board Chairman Keith Sutton said Friday he would like that to change, and an online petition is calling for the same.

SEE ALSO: The history behind naming Fort Bragg after a Confederate general

"Personally I do think that we should make a decision to change the name moving forward. But again, I'm just one decision. It takes the nine of us as a board, but personally I do think that the name should be changed," Sutton said.

Sutton said the board would be taking a look at the middle school's name and whether it can be changed. He said there is no official inquiry into changing the name, but he expects the board to discuss it at its next meeting.

In addition to the possible name change, Sutton discussed the possibility of removing School Resource Officers from campuses. The district has received at least one petition calling for that change in response to the police brutality concerns rising across the country.

"I believe any immediate removal would be premature at best," Sutton said.

He elaborated by saying all partnerships can be improved. He vowed the school board would look into ways to improve the current SRO program, but vouched for the effectiveness of keeping officers on campus.

"At any given day, our campuses are among the safest places in the county, but there are times that law enforcement is needed. I believe it is better for our students and staff if they know and have a relationship with the officer who answers the call," he said.