In This Review

Josephus Daniels: His Life and Times
Josephus Daniels: His Life and Times
By Lee Craig
The University of North Carolina Press, 2013, 592 pp

Although little remembered today, Josephus Daniels was a pivotal figure in twentieth-century U.S. politics. As the publisher of the The News & Observer, he was at the center of North Carolina politics for half a century. In national politics, he was best known as a confidant of President Woodrow Wilson, serving as secretary of the navy during Wilson’s two terms. But Daniels’ most lasting contribution was his role in constructing the so-called New South. With Daniels’ assistance and leadership, Democrats in North Carolina established the state’s first real public school system, promoted industrial development, and built paved roads for the automobile age. But these “progressives” also broke African American political power. As late as 1898, African Americans controlled local governments in parts of the state and played an influential role in state politics. But Daniels -- who later arranged for Wilson to watch the pro–Ku Klux Klan film The Birth of a Nation -- helped orchestrate the racial polarization that led to the destruction of black political power in North Carolina. A complex and fascinating figure, Daniels deserves a better biography than this well-researched but underdeveloped book.