Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
This interview was originally conducted in the office of Tougaloo President Beverly Hogan at the 50th Anni- versary of Mississippi Freedom Summer, June 27, 2014, in Jackson, Mississippi. It was recorded as part of Eric Mann’s program, Voices from the Frontlines, on KPFK Pacifica 90.7 FM in Los Angeles.
In June 2014 I went to Jackson, Mississippi to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer–one of the great periods in U.S. and Black revolutionary history. Thanks to the support of Alan Minsky, the program direc- tor of KPFK Pacifica in Los Angeles and my own organization, the Labor/Community Strategy Center, went
to Mississippi to conduct a series of interviews/conversations with veterans of the civil rights movement and
to broadcast them within days of the event. I worked with Julian Lamb of the Strategy Center and film-makers Katherine Murphy and William Sabourin in what turned out to be intense, exhilarating 12 hour days of record- ing, filming, and editing.
In the summer of 1964, when Mississippi Summer was happening in real time, I had just graduated from Cornell and was working in a settlement house in the South Bronx with Black and Puerto Rican families.
By the fall of 1964 I was a field secretary with the Congress of Racial Equality in Harlem and the Northeast and my life had already been shaped by the murders of Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Good- man, and Mickey Schwerner – among the Mississippi Martyrs. It was also shaped by the history-making organiz- ing of CORE and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.
When I met Dave Dennis, a field secretary for CORE in Mississippi and, later Fannie Lou Hamer, I understood even at 21 that I was a soldier in the army but these were our generals–our true heroes and I was so lucky to be part of The Movement. I did not have the courage or the bravery to stand down the Klan or to go door to door among Black sharecroppers in Mississippi but I did go door to door in Harlem, Baltimore, D.C., and Newark in Black communities as part of the Civil Rights and Black Liberation Movement–and I am still doing so today in South Los Angeles.
During the Freedom Summer 50th Anniversary I taped conversations with Hollis Watkins, Dave Dennis, Der- rick Johnson, Frankye Adams Johnson, Gwen Simmons, Mike Sayer, Dorothy Zellner, John O’Neal, Bob Zellner,
Leroy Johnson, Beverly Hogan, and Julian Bond. Each of them was a magnificent story in themselves.
I remember the conversation with Julian so vividly. Strikingly handsome, Julian put forth every sentence so succinctly and carefully formulated, generous and ironic with a profound sense of history–an introspective and truly modest self. I was also struck by what a fierce warrior he was and how every story was one of struggle and confrontation with the forces of evil and the commitment to fight to win.
At the time I was struck by how so many of us who fought for civil rights, worked with SNCC and CORE, helped the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party challenge in 1964 were still involved in The Movement in 2014 and how truly fortunate we were to have witnessed and made history. In Julian Bond’s case I was well aware I was talking with a true giant of the Civil Rights Movement.
Julian died on August 15 of this month. The transcript of our conversation is printed below. ~*~
Hi everybody, this is Eric Mann, host of Voices from the Frontlines. I am in Jackson, Mississippi with Julian Bond-one of the many heroes of the civil rights movement. Julian, while a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia helped to establish the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He made sure SNCC organized its own media campaigns as its communications director for 5 years. In 1965, he was elected to the Georgia State Legislature and was denied admission after his election by the white legislators. That became
a cause celebre for the movement, and after the Supreme Court ruled in his favor he was admitted to the legis- lature in 1967. Bond was elected to four terms in the Georgia House of Representatives and later to six terms in the Georgia Senate. In 1971, he helped to found the Southern Poverty Law Center where he served as its presi- dent. From 1998 to 2010, he was chairman of board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People….