Keene New Hampshire’s Civil Rights Activist and Martyr, Jonathan Myrick Daniels (1939-1965)

Jonathan Myrick Daniels was born in 1939 in Keene, New Hampshire, son of Dr. Philip B. Daniels and his wife Constance. Jon’s father was a practicing physician in Keene from about 1933 to 1951.  Dr. Daniels died in December of 1959.  His widow Constance continued to live in Keene until January 1984 when she died. Jonathan had a younger sister named Emily.

Jon grew up in Keene, graduating from Keene High School. In 1961 he graduated from the Virginia Military Institute (his father died during his sophomore year there). In his valedictorian speech he said, “I have three wishes for you. I wish you the joy of a purposeful life. I wish you new worlds and the vision to see them. I wish you the decency and nobility of which you are capable.”

After a brief stint at Harvard University (to study English literature) he entered the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. Becoming involved with the civil rights movement, he went to Alabama to help with black voter registration in Lowndes County. He was arrested at a demonstration, jailed in Hayneville and then suddenly released. Moments after his release, on August 20, 1965 he was shot to death by a deputy sheriff while trying to protect Ruby Sales, a black woman standing with him.  The deputy sheriff was charged with manslaughter, but was acquitted by an all-white, local jury. Then President Lydon B. Johnson sent a letter of sympathy to Jon’s mother.

In 1993 the book, “Outside Agitator” was written by Charles W. Eagles, about Jon Daniel’s experiences in the civil rights movement. “Here Am I, Send me: The Journey of Jonathan Daniels“, a documentary film, co-produced by Bill Sullivan and Larry Benaquist, has aired on numerous PBS stations and is distributed through PBS Plus.

Janice

**Additional Reading**

Letter to Mrs. Philip Daniels

VMI Archives (and photographs)-

Martyrs of the Civil Rights Movement

Ruby Sales

Biography, Jonathan Myrick Daniels

2016: Gil Troy writes an article about Jonathan Daniels, the Forgotten Civil Rights Leader.  Worth reading, but he was not forgotten as I wrote this story ten years ago.

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