Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Motivation: The Meaning of a Name

BOND: Now, you’re named after Frederick Douglass and Paul Laurence Dunbar.


BOND: What impact did this naming have on you? When did you find out who these people were, who had given you -- who you'd been given their names?

WILDER: Well --

BOND: What does that mean to you?

WILDER: Well, it meant everything to me after my mother explained it to me, and ‘cause she would give reasons why she would name all of us. And I would say, “Well, why did you name me, what I was named after?” She said, “Well, you know, Paul Laurence Dunbar was a great poet and he wrote beautifully and he wrote all kinds of things." And I said, “Well, that’s interesting." So I said, “Okay, what about Frederick Douglass?” Well, she said, “He was fighting against slavery and he was a slave.” I said, “He was a slave?" She said, "Yes," and then she would explain to me what that meant because my father’s parents were slaves and she said, “Just like your father’s parents, and they rose above it, and they could do all these things. One was a great orator, he could speak, another was a great writer. And you -- if you’re going to be named after these guys, you got to measure up.” So it made me practice speaking, and it made me practice, writing. My mother was the best crossword puzzle solver that I've ever met. And she knew words -- she was a high school grad. But there were no words I could ever spring on her that she didn’t know, so she would always challenge me on a regular basis. So it made me a better writer, I could read better, and it, I hope, it helped me be able to speak a little bit better.