New year, new name: Daniels to Oberlin


Sarah Chew

Dr. Diann Kearney standing behind the new Oberlin Middle School sign with Oberlin’s Assistant Principals.

Many current and former Broughton students attended Daniels Middle School and call themselves Blue Jackets. Now, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the school many once called home has been renamed Oberlin Middle School.

   Josephus Daniels, the man for whom the school was originally named after, was formerly praised as a great city leader. Daniels and his family owned the News & Observer for almost 100 years. At the climax of his career, Daniels served as secretary of the US Navy under President Woodrow Wilson, hence the mascot “Blue Jackets”. Daniels also served as ambassador to Mexico under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

   Because of Daniels’ impressive career, he was honored in many forms around the city including Daniels Middle School, Daniels Hall at North Carolina State University and a statue of Daniels outside of the old News & Observer building.

   Raleigh community members inspired by the BLM movement revealed some disturbing facts about Daniels and his past. Daniels led the planning and execution of the Wilmington Massacre, an event very few North Carolinians knew about until this year. The Wilmington Massacre was an overthrow of the government by white supremacists, killing and threatening black and white officials that believed in integration. White supremacy militia flooded the city, holding elected officials at gunpoint, looting and burning down houses and black-owned businesses in an attempt to destroy Wilmington’s integration efforts.

  Through his editorship at the News & Observer, Daniels used the paper to create anti-black propaganda, encouraging violent voter suppression. Daniels’ family sold the News & Observer in 1995; however, the newspaper ran an article apologizing for Daniels’ actions in 2019.

   An online petition started in June was the first source that called for the renaming of Daniels Middle School. After the petition gained local attention, Wake County Public School System Chairman Keith Sutton made a statement saying he supported the change. Then, on Tuesday, June 16, the Wake County School Board voted to rename the school as Oberlin Middle School. Although Oberlin is the name of the street the school is located on, the new name also honors the Oberlin community founded by former slaves, originally located near Cameron Village.

   Once Oberlin had their new name, they needed a mascot. The Oberlin PTA posted a google form on social media, encouraging community members to suggest a new mascot. After that, the mascots were finalized down to about five choices and the PTA asked the community to vote on their favorite. The decision came down to the most popular among the PTA and the community voters. It was decided that Oberlin’s new mascot would be the Trailblazers.

   Along with the name change of Daniels Middle, the statue of Daniels has been torn down and Daniels Hall on NC State’s campus had its name removed, with the intention to rename the building at a later date.   School renamings are very rare in Wake County. In the mid-1970s, Wake County moved away from naming school buildings after individuals, according to the News & Observer. The few schools that are named after individuals are centered in and around the downtown area including Broughton, Martin Middle School, Ligon Middle School, Root Elementary, Lacy Elementary and more.

UPDATE: With the departure of Oberlin’s former Principal Mr. David Gaudet, former Broughton interim Principal Dr. Diann Kearney will be Oberlin’s new interim Principal.