In March 1965, the televised appeal of Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Selma to secure for all citizens the right to vote drew Jonathan to a time and place where the nation’s racism and the Episcopal Church’s share in that inheritance were exposed.
He returned to seminary and asked leave to work in Selma where he would be sponsored by the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity. Conviction of his calling was deepened at Evening Prayer during the singing of the Magnificat: “ ‘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 that I must go to Selma. The Virgin’s song was to grow more and more dear to me in the weeks ahead.”
Jailed on August 14 for joining a picket line, Jonathan and his companions were unexpectedly released. Aware that they were in danger, four of them walked to a small store. As sixteen-year-old Ruby Sales reached the top step of the entrance, a man with a gun appeared, cursing her. Jonathan pulled her to one side to shield her from the unexpected threats. As a result, he was killed by a blast from the 12-gauge gun.
The letters and papers Jonathan left bear eloquent witness to the profound effect Selma had upon him. He writes, “The doctrine of the creeds, the enacted faith of the sacraments, were the essential preconditions of the experience itself. The faith with which I went to Selma has not changed: it has grown … I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord’s death and resurrection … with them, the black men and white men, with all life, in him whose Name is above all the names that the races and nations shout … We are indelibly and unspeakably one.”
EDS announced the Jonathan M. Daniels Memorial Fellowship recipients for 2013:
The Fellowship is awarded annually and provides financial assistance to one or more seminarians seeking to strengthen their theological education through participation in a social movement concerned with important human needs, including, but not limited to, civil rights, community organization, fair housing, immigrant rights, prisoner rights, racial equality, or environmental justice.
The Daniels Fellowship is named in memory of Jonathan M. Daniels, Episcopal Theological School seminarian and civil rights volunteer, who acted upon his conviction that God wanted him to make a Christian witness in the struggle for civil rights and who, in doing so, lost his life.