Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Remembering Julian Bond, Leader in Activism and Education

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Remembering Julian Bond, Leader in Activism and Education

Article excerpt

If anyone knew the importance of a college education, it was Julian Bond.

In 1945, his father, Dr. Horace Mann Bond, became the first Black president of Lincoln University, a historically Black college in Pennsylvania, relocating his family, including 5-year-old Julian, from Georgia to the rural HBCU campus about 50 miles outside Philadelphia.

But it was Bond's role as a young organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) that solidified his presence within the burgeoning civil rights movement of the 1960s and catapulted him to national fame. He served as the communications director for SNCC and played a critical role in organizing voter registration drives and protesting Jim Crow laws throughout the American South.

Although he dropped out of Morehouse College, Bond later returned and earned a degree in English in 1971, the same year that he co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that combats hate, intolerance, and discrimination through education and litigation.

It was 50 years ago that Bond won his first run for office and was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. But his fellow legislators voted 184-12 not to seat him because he had publicly supported SNCC's policy in opposing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. It took a U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn the legislators' actions, and he later went on to serve in the Georgia State House and, later, Senate, until 1987.

By the late 1980s, Bond was seemingly everywhere. He was hosting the public service talk show America's Black Forum, writing a nationally syndicated newspaper column and narrating the PBS series Eyes on the Prize. He was also popular on the campus lecture circuit and taught at several institutions, including Drexel University, Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania.

He spent more than 20 years as a professor at the University of Virginia and American University, where he taught courses drawing on his firsthand knowledge of the civil rights movement.

I was fortunate to take one of his classes in the 1990s. I was a senior at Georgetown University, and Bond--who had just been elected chairman of the NAACP--was teaching a weekly course at American University. I traveled across town once a week and was treated to a rare history lesson about the movement from someone who was an active participant.

More important than the lectures themselves, I got the chance to learn about Bond during his regular 30-minute break sessions. He would head outdoors to smoke a cigarette, and I would be close behind quizzing him about everything from the civil rights movement to Black political leadership. …

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