Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Saints of Summer: Jonathan Daniels

Not all martyrs lived long ago. We celebrate the feast day of one them today, Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who was killed in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 while working for equal rights in the Civil Rights Movement.

Daniels was a young Episcopal seminarian at the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Mass., when like many other young people of his time, he answered the call from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to go to the South to join a march in Selma.

Daniels stayed on after the march, working to integrate the local Episcopal Church, and developing resources for those needing assistance in the African American community.

In August 1965, was arrested in a picket line in front of local businesses. After his release from jail, he and the others were confronted by a man with a shot gun, who told them they would be shot if they didn't leave. The man pointed the shot gun at an African American child who was with Daniels. When Daniels pushed the girl out of the way he was shot and killed.

We do well to remember Jonathan Daniels and those who sacrificed so much to bring equal rights closer to reality. And we do well to remember the struggle is never ended.

Before going to Selma, Daniels wrote this:
"My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." I had come to Evening Prayer as usual that evening, and as usual I was singing the Magnificat with the special love and reverence I have always felt for Mary's glad song. "He hath showed strength with his arm." As the lovely hymn of the God-bearer continued, I found myself peculiarly alert, suddenly straining toward the decisive, luminous, Spirit-filled "moment" that would, in retrospect, remind me of others--particularly one at Easter three years ago. Then it came. "He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things." I knew then that I must go to Selma. The Virgin's song was to grow more and more dear in the weeks ahead."

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