James Daniels shares his story about growing up in the Jim Crow South during a New Smyrna presentation.
FROM STAFF REPORTS
Volusia County resident James Daniels was the honored guest of the New Smyrna Beach Rotary on the last day of Black History Month. Daniels published his memoir last year titled “Metamorphis: From Cotton Picker to Community Leader.’’
The book details his experiences growing up in the Jim Crow South, his family sharecropping during the Great Depression and overcoming barriers of race and class.
During the Feb. 28 Rotary Club meeting, Daniels took the audience down the road of his life – from picking cotton and peanuts to traveling down from Georgia to the City of Ormond Beach with his family and extended family of 16 people.
Reflecting on past
His speech included seeing the first time he saw an indoor toilet and electric-powered lights.
Daniels’ story about going to a grocery store in Ormond Beach where he did not have to go through the back door and he was allowed to buy his own groceries and candy brought tears to the audience’s eyes.
He also mentioned how he ran the elevator for one of the local hotels and was able to help his family along with other siblings, save enough money ($1,500) to buy a house.
His talk was well-received and he ended up selling many books to the Rotarians.
A rough start
In a September 2016 article in the Daytona Times, Daniels recounted his experience growing up and why he wanted the book published.
Daniels was born in 1928 in Cordele, Georgia on a plantation to sharecroppers and descendants of slaves.
“I thought that I had a story to tell that would be interesting. So far it has been proven to be true, “he said. “I want people, especially youngsters, to know what we went through to make things easier for them. They often take things for granted. It took a lot of blood, sweat, tears, hard work and hardship.”
The retired insurance executive and businessman has worked with the NAACP and helped to start the Volusia County/Daytona Beach branch.
He has volunteered with Florida Health Care, the Daytona Beach International Airport, Halifax Historical Society, and his church, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church. Boards he has served on include the City of Daytona Beach’s Historic Preservation Board, Nuisance and Abatement Board, and Midtown Redevelopment Board.