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On the Kalendar: Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Seminarian, Witness for Civil Rights

August from Les Petites Heures d'Anne de Bretagne

“August”, kalendar page from Les Petites Heures d’Anne de Bretagne (The Little Hours of Queen Anne of Bretagne), by the Maître des Triomphes de Pétrarque. From Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris (France).

Jonathan Daniels was an Episcopal seminarian and civil rights activist. He was one of a number of students and clergy who traveled to Selma, Alabama, to participate in the march for voting rights organized by Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. Daniels spent several months in Selma, returning to the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, MA, where he was a student, to sit for, and pass, his exams.

On 2 August 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. Later that month, Daniels and 28 other protesters went to Fort Deposit, AL, to picket its whites-only stores. All of the protestors were arrested, but five juveniles were released the next day. The remaining protesters where held for six days in squalid conditions (including a lack of air conditioning), and then released on 20 August. While waiting for transport, Daniels, Fr Richard Morrisroe (a white Roman Catholic priest), Ruby Sales, and Joyce Bailey (the latter two being Black activists) walked to a nearby store to by cold soft drinks. Tom L. Coleman, an unpaid special deputy, blocked the door, and shot at the seventeen-year-old Sales with his shotgun. Daniels, however, pushed Sales down and took the full blast of the shotgun. He died instantly. Morrisroe grabbed Bailey and ran with her, But Coleman shot him in the lower back.

Coleman was indited for manslaughter, but an all-white jury found him not guilty. A year after the killings, Coleman said in a television interview that he had no regrets, declaring, “I would shoot them both tomorrow.”

Daniels died on 20 August, but that is the commemoration of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, so Daniels is commemorated on 14 July, the date of his arrest.

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