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Julian Bond: A dedicated life of service

GEORGE E. CURRY | 8/24/2015, 7:28 a.m.
Horace Julian Bond was born Jan. 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee, into a family of privilege. His father, Horace Mann ...
George Curry

(NNPA) – Horace Julian Bond was born Jan. 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee, into a family of privilege. His father, Horace Mann Bond, was a noted educator who served as president of Fort Valley State University in Georgia, where such notables as W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson were frequent guests.

During their formative years, most Historically Black Colleges and Universities, established during the Reconstruction Era to provide higher education for formerly enslaved African Americans, were headed by Whites. Bond’s father was the first Black president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, his alma mater. His mother, Julia, was a librarian.

Young Julian was sent off to George School, a private Quaker boarding school near Philadelphia, and later enrolled in Morehouse College. At Morehouse, Bond chose a life of activism that would become the hallmark of his life.

This is significant because many Blacks born into a life of privilege distanced themselves from the nascent Civil Rights Movement.

I remember how incensed I became when Condoleezza Rice boasted in a Washington Post interview that “My parents were very strategic. I was going to be so well prepared, and I was going to do all of these things that were revered in white society so well, that I would be armored somehow from racism …”

And it got worse, as I noted in a column on Rice.

Referring to Rev. John W. Rice Jr., she said, “My father was not a march-in-the-street preacher. He saw no reason to put children at risk. He would never put his own child at risk.”

Bond’s father, who had more blue blood credentials than Rev. Rice, obviously instilled a different set of values in him.

Bond dropped out of Morehouse College to join the Civil Rights Movement, first as co-founder of the Atlanta Student Movement that organized local sit-ins on the heels of the 1960 lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina. He was also a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

It was in his capacity as communications director of SNCC that I first met Bond during the summer of 1966, after I had completed my freshman year of college. I spent that summer as a volunteer in the Atlanta headquarters, watching him interact with the media and carefully polishing SNCC’s national image.

Julian also wrote poetry. I don’t remember many of his poems, but I still recall part of one we recited all summer:

Look at that girl shake that thing,

We can’t all be Martin Luther King.

Don’t ask me why I remember that nearly 50 years later.

In SNCC, Bond was not a key organizer, as some stories have suggested. The organization had legions of field organizers who became legends in the movement, including Bob Moses, Cleveland Sellers and Courtland Cox. Bond’s role was to communicate SNCC’s message to the media – and he did that well.

The incident that catapulted Bond to international fame was his opposition to the Vietnam War. King did not publicly turn against the Vietnam War until his speech at Riverside Church in New York on April 4, 1967, exactly a year before his assassination. In 1965, Julian was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. Shortly before he was scheduled to take office, he endorsed a statement by the SNCC opposing the Vietnam War.