Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965

By Davis W. Houck; David E. Dixon | Go to book overview

§23 Horace Mann Bond

Horace Mann Bond was born in 1904. In 1923 he received a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University. The noted educator took his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Early in his academic career, Bond served as a key teacher and administrator at Fisk University and Dillard University. Between 1939 and 1957 Bond served as university president at Fort Valley State College, and Lincoln University. In 1957 Bond became dean of the School of Education at Atlanta University. Throughout his tenure in academia, Bond worked to abolish segregation while continually trying to improve the education of African American students. His influence as an educator and renowned sociologist is still seen in his articles, addresses, and his innovative critiques of intelligence and aptitude testing.

Horace Mann Bond was not the only member of his family to embrace the civil rights movement and the daunting task of desegregation. His legacy was carried on through his son, Julian Bond, who would later become an antiwar activist, an important member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a controversial member of Congress, and president of the NAACP. Their tireless struggle for the advancement of black civil rights and interracial understanding underscored the research of Horace Mann Bond that stressed the impact of geographic and socio-economic factors on academic achievement. Bond died on December 21, 1972. His wife, Julia Washington Bond, and famous son Julian survive him.

Bond utilizes religion, politics, philosophy, and education to create a uniquely eloquent speech that, at its core, is a repentant tribute to an interracial incident involving a white man on death row, Johnnie Birchfield. Bond comes to Montgomery, most notably, to be a witness to history “in the grand manner.” The Montgomery Bus Boycott was just then four months old. Bond moves through history to establish the contemporary ideal of “American freedom,” as he reflects on the influence of classic and modern theological and political champions. All people are connected through God, and although lacking in perfection, have the ability to progress in the continual effort for social change. Bond remains the unwavering teacher, and by drawing from his own flaws of prejudice, reminds the proverbial members of the congregation that racism is a deep-rooted and prevalent problem in this nation. Despite his candid admission that the problem is persistent, Bond reiterates that the cause is not lost and freedom will prevail because of its foundation in the fundamental American principle of equality. Bond’s substantial use of faith-based allusions indicates his belief in the power of prayer and religious guidance throughout the tumultuous campaign.


A Cigarette for Johnnie Birchfield

State Teachers Association, Montgomery, Alabama
March 22, 1956

My subject is, “A Cigarette for Johnnie Birchfield.” I announce that subject, and assure you that, sooner or later, I intend to talk to the point of it. But first I must tell you why I am here; and this, in itself, is a long tale.

-178-

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