James F. Daniels

James F. Daniels photo

James F. Daniels has published his first book, a memoir titled Metamorphosis: From Cotton Picker to Community Leader. The book details the 88-year-old’s experiences growing up in the Jim Crow South, his family sharecropping during the Great Depression and overcoming barriers of race and class. “My life experiences disciplined me. I thought that when grownups or Whites told you to do something that you were supposed to do it. I was comfortable in my ignorance. I thought everyone lived like us. We had nothing to compare it with.”

Daniels was born in 1928 in Cordele, Georgia on a plantation to sharecroppers and descendants of slaves. His parents had 13 children. “I didn’t sleep in a bed until I was 11 years old. We slept on a pallet. For those who don’t know, it’s a padded place on the floor. We had 18 to 20 shacks where laborers live while the plantation boss lived in the big house,” he explained. “We picked cotton. We started at the first light of day. We had a commissary where we got food and clothes. My dad was only paid once a year in September. That’s when they added the family’s labor for the year to see whether you earned or owed money. We mostly cleared. Dad often made $4.50 a year. It was a lot. A gallon of gas was 12 cents and a pound of bacon was a nickel. We were thrifty. We had our own garden and raised chickens,” Daniels recalled.

Active in community He retired from the Atlanta Life Insurance Company and opened his own agency, Daniels and Young Insurance on Ridgewood Avenue with Lilly Young. “I eventually sold my business and property and retired. I even had a business called SAA Automobile on Second Avenue. Charles Cherry Sr., the founder of the Daytona Times, shared an office with me at one time,” Daniels recalled. He added that he once managed a daycare. Daniels volunteers at Florida Health Care, Daytona Beach International Airport, Halifax Historical Society and his church, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.

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1 Book by James F. Daniels