Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

BOND: Elaine Jones, thank you so much for doing this. Welcome back to the University of Virginia.

JONES: Thank you, Julian, it's good to be back.

BOND: Well, this is an exploration in leadership and African American leadership particularly. And I'd like to start with your earliest years. It's difficult sometimes for people to be introspective, how did they develop and so on, but you came from a household with a strong mother and a strong father.


BOND: What effect did they have on you?

JONES: Tremendous effect. There were three of us children, me and an older brother, younger sister. And it was a story you've heard before, Julian. It was the dinner table. I mean, my mother and father were both very verbal people, highly verbal. They say opposites attract -- well, that's not what happened there. And at the dinner table each night, one of us, and the parents included, would have to defend ourselves for something. I mean, we would be taken to task by the other four for something that happened that day or did not happen. You found yourself trying to sink or swim. I mean, it was a very active dinner table. I mean, the food was secondary. You know, it was the conversation that was primary. And, I mean, from the earliest I can remember, that happened. And so, when I was growing up in the segregated South and I saw the wrongs, the palpable wrongs -- because we lived the wrongs – I said to myself, "I have to do something about this and I can do it." I had the confidence as a child to say, "Well I can make a difference. I don't know how, you know, but I have to make a difference in the terms of this situation."

BOND: Now your mother is a school teacher, your father is a Pullman porter --

JONES: Pullman porter.

BOND: These are positions of respect and leadership in the community. Did you have the feeling, or did you know that your parents -- your family situation was different from the situation of most black people in Norfolk?

JONES: Well, no, because remember we still have the housing segregation today, but it was rigid and state enforced at the time. So our communities were mixed communities. Down the street, you know, were the kids with no shoes that our parents would make sure that what little we had was shared. So we were all in the community, no matter what your socio-economic status was, you were in the community. And we were between two public parks, two public housing units, you know, at each end of the block. And so -- I guess the -- when you were able to move out of the housing unit -- and my parents were pleased to say, we never had to live in the housing unit, you know -- but we did live in a four-story walk-up before we moved to where we lived, and those who were able to get into the community were those who were able to get the plot of land and able to build a house, you know. But even when that happened you were still in an all African American community with people who were not as economically self sufficient and who lived in the house, and you had friends in the housing unit, so you understood and you interacted. At school, you know, you were all there together. And I think it made a difference in terms of being able to reach out and not judge on the basis of economic differences, but be able to see individuals.

BOND: I've read that you decided at age eight to become a lawyer.

JONES: I did, I did.

BOND: What did you know about lawyers?

JONES: Well, it was unusual. It was an interesting story. I was, I think it was something -- well, precocious, I guess, or brazen, as my parents would call it. And I had a toothache. And one day coming home from school, I stopped at the dentist's office, an African American dentist's office, en route. I go in the office and he gives me a full set of x-rays and the whole treatment. I'm in there for almost two hours and I come home late and that's the end of that. And my parents don't ask anything about where I had been, or they assumed I had been over at a friend's house or something. The bill came from the dentist. I mean, it was some huge sum, something like a hundred dollars. Back then, it was big money. And so when my parents saw that, they said, "What is this? You didn't have any permission to go to the dentist. That's supposed to be discussed with us," you know. And it was --

My father was on the railroad. He said, "Look," – there was a court, you know, have to appear in court on a certain date because they didn't pay the bill, and they taped the notice up on the door. "You have to go to court." And so, the parents, my mother said, "I'm going to school." And my father said, "I'm not going to miss the trip on the railroad because of you and I'll have, you know, one of the family friends to go with you down to the court, but you're going to have to go down there." And I was petrified. I'm about eight, nine years old.

BOND: Really?

JONES: And so he had the family friend, an older gentleman, and we go to the court that morning. I never will forget it. The judge, the lawyers. The dentist didn't show up, but the dentist's lawyer is there. They called the case, and I go up with the family friend. And the judge looks at me and asks me -- they read out what had happened and the judge asked me, leaned over and asked me -- now I was very intimidated, this was the court house -- he said, "Young lady." I said, "Yes sir." He said, "Did you have your parent's permission to go to the dentist?"

Julian, that was a quandary for me. Because if I said no, I didn't have permission, it made me look as if I were a disobedient child, you know. If I said yes, it made me look as if I were, you know, doing what children ordinarily do with the parents, acting according to the way you're supposed to act. And something told me to tell the truth. It said, "Look, if you -- just tell the truth." And I said, "No, your Honor, I didn't." And he then turned to the lawyer for the dentist and said, "Well, then, does your client have the practice of doing full-mouth x-rays on eight year olds when they walk into the office with no slip, no call to the parents, nothing? Case dismissed."

And then I -- you know, I stood there. Now had I said, "Yes, I had permission," my folks would have had to pay that money. And so then – I always knew something about truth – but the power of truth came through to me then. That's the power of truth. Do not lie. My mama would say, "Elaine, I hate a liar." She would say, "I hate a liar. Tell the truth." And so when I got home, I was able to celebrate at that moment. But then all of the segregated water signs I would see when I'm going to church, in the bus – you know, we all had to sit in the back of the bus – to see in the neighborhood when the police came through, you know with their guns on their hips, they were all white. You know, just the impact of racism on the African American community was pervasive. It was profound and it was never ending. You always saw it. And so, then I made the connection between law and change.

JONES: All of the segregated water signs I would see where I'm going to church in the bus – you know, we all had to sit in the back of the bus – the fear in the neighborhood when the police came through with their guns on their hips. They were all white. You know, just the impact of racism on the African American community was pervasive. It was profound and it was never ending, you always saw it, and so then I made the connection between law and change. You know? Law and --

BOND: How do you make that connection?

JONES: Well, I had --

BOND: I mean, you had this experience in court that most children don't have.

JONES: Most children don't have -- people would go down to the police station and you never see them again. That would happen. People go down there and you just never know what happened to them.

BOND: Right.

JONES: You know and then the stories that you would hear about, and police are part of law, you know. I was looking for a way. I said, "How can I make this difference?" And then Thurgood Marshall. Then Thurgood Marshall. I later had a teacher who had been -- Thurgood Marshall brought a lawsuit when he was General Council in NAACP in the mid-'30s on equalization, teacher equalization of salary, for North Carolina and Virginia that was a black tax. You know, black teachers got one thing because you were black and white teachers of similar qualifications got much more because they were white. And he first brought those cases in North Carolina, then he brought them in Virginia. One of my teachers had been one of his lead plaintiffs in the Virginia case -- in the Virginia case, Allen v. Hicks. And so she would talk about Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP. And so --

BOND: So this was not a history lesson; this was first-hand experience?

JONES: Oh no, she would just talk about it in class. She wasn't a history teacher.

BOND: That's so interesting because when the sit-ins come along, one of the original sit-in students at North Carolina A&T had a high school teacher who was on the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, you know, the predecessor, and so this information is just transmitted and the same thing is happening to you, and I guess happening all over the country, all over the South, anyway.

JONES: It was, I'm sure it was, because people were affected, you know. The litigation was that we couldn't do anything with the executive branch, we couldn't even get an anti-lynching law. We had no hope, you know, in the Congress with the Southern senators in the position of authority. So the only place we could go at that point was the court, you know. And the courts weren't always responsive, but once in a while you could get a semblance of justice. And so, she would talk about that because they won that case, and that had a profound impact on her, you know. And I happened to get her class.

BOND: And so -- and it had a profound impact on you.

JONES: It did.

BOND: And Thurgood Marshall was a well-known name.


BOND: I mean, you knew who Thurgood Marshall was, and everybody knew who he was.

JONES: You knew who he was. That's right.

BOND: Now you also talked about your parents being refused hotel rooms.

JONES: Yes, well -- in my household there was a certain awareness. You know, my father was a Pullman porter. That was the first black trade union for blacks, and A. Philip Randolph would come home with him when they came off the railroad.

BOND: Oh really?

JONES: Oh yes. They'd come off the railroad and he'd come up to the kitchen. You know, Pullman porters were close and the brotherhood of Pullman porters, and Daddy would -- I mean he was very active and vocal and people gathered around and -- because I, as a little girl, you know, I met A. Philip Randolph. But with my father, being on the railroad, decided, "I want my kids to see something of the country." And so mother said, "Good idea, and I can get a break. You know I will not go." And she wouldn't. So when I was around ten or so, they packed us up and we took the first trip to Chicago on the train. Daddy could get passes and the three of us – my brother's three years older, my sister, three years younger – and here we are. We get to Chicago and we can't find a hotel. We go to the Y and the people look at us and look over the desk at the three of us, and say, "No room." And you know that's not the case with somebody just before just checked in!

BOND: Right.

JONES: We're walking from hotel to hotel, these three little kids and my father in his uniform trying to find -- and that -- oh, that did something to me. That did something to me. And so, he eventually had to find one of his railway buddies who happened to be at a house, and that's where we ended up. You know, and it was just unconscionable, just unconscionable, and then you would know growing up what would happen if you took a trip across country. Wherever we tried to travel, you couldn't go anywhere without planning that trip. Just because of rigid segregation. And so I said, "This system is wrong, and Elaine, you know, somehow, you're going to make some contribution to change it. I don't know what it is, but you're going to make some contribution to change it."

JONES: When people would ask me, at nine, ten, eleven, "Elaine, what are you going to do when you grow up?" Because they would always ask it. And I'd say, "Well I'm going to be a lawyer." It was interesting to look on people's faces, this little ten year old telling them, "I'm going to be a lawyer," with pigtails and you know. And they'd know the society which we live in, and they would pat me on the head and say, "Yes."

BOND: "Yes, little girl." JONES: "Yes, little girl. Yes, you will be." They never said no, but they were very condescending, some of them. But you know, my parents never condescended. They're always there, proudly, "Elaine's going to be a lawyer."

BOND: So they're reinforcing this?

JONES: Oh, they are! And I don't know -- and but now, my mother was interesting. They reinforced it, but when I graduated – I went to Howard undergraduate – and when I was, let's say, second year at Howard, my mother wrote me this letter. She said, "Well, Elaine, I know you want to go to law school," but she said, "Please take some education courses."

BOND: Just in case.

JONES: That's right. She said, "I may be able to help you get on in the school system in Norfolk, but please take the course." And I said, "Mother, I don't need to." She said, "Please." So, for mother I took three education courses.

BOND: Well, see there's a time she would have told you to learn how to do typing or shorthand, so we have made some progress.

JONES: That's right, we did make some progress. So I took three education courses and she did the same thing to my sister. She said, "Take some education courses."

BOND: Who also became a lawyer.

JONES: That's right. She's a judge now. She was at Hampton Institute, and mother wrote her, "Take a double minor in education and something else."

BOND: What about the Howard atmosphere? Was there something there that pushed you further along?

JONES: Oh! Oh, you know when I was in Howard in the '60s -- Stokely Carmichael and I took the same classes together. We took Philosophy of Art together. There were seven of us in the class, you know. All the freedom riders -- I mean, it was all coming through Howard. And I was on -- I had, I don't know, I just had no money at Howard. My brother was in school at Virginia Union at the time and I had very little money. I don't know why I didn't have more money, but I just didn't have it for some reason. And I worked on the desk -- behind the desk in the quadrangle at Howard, in the dormitory, for the whole four years I was at Howard. And so, Julian, I saw everybody.

BOND: Yes.

JONES: I saw everybody who was at Howard. They all were coming to the quadrangle, all the guys were coming to the quadrangle. And I knew, on Saturday night, time to go out, or Friday night, who was asking for whom.

BOND: Yeah, yeah.

JONES: Because -- I knew that. And I mean, they would all come through -- I mean, I just saw everybody. And they would come through, and it was a buzzing system. You would buzz on this board behind you. And I got to the point, I knew who was going to buzz and I would automatically do it. Sometimes, though, the guy would come up, and he would say, "Oh no!"

BOND: "Not that one!"

JONES: "Not that one!" I'd say, "All right." And I say, that was tremendous, valuable information -- I never used it in any way to help my economic status.

BOND: Well now, what about teachers? What teachers do you remember that helped push you along this path?

JONES: At Howard?

BOND: Yeah.

JONES: Nobody at Howard pushed me into law. Howard --

BOND: Well, into activism, into -- you know, there are lawyers and there are lawyers.

JONES: Yes, yes, yes. Let me see, how did I get pushed? I think -- now, I think what motivated me primarily was just the atmosphere at Howard. You know, I was a Political Science major and I said, "This is the wrong major for law school." Best major for law is English, in my opinion. English is the best major for law.

BOND: Yes, because it's reading and writing.

JONES: It's just reading and writing and speaking, you know -- but I need to think a little more -- I know Howard had an influence. Oh, I know, Jim Nabrit, Jr., who was the president of Howard --

BOND: Right.

JONES: -- became president the year I entered and I knew of his role, you know, in the legal side of civil rights movement because he had just come from being dean of the law school at Howard, you know. And so Martin Luther King came through Howard. You know, it was just the entire atmosphere, but then I honed a few political skills at Howard.

BOND: How so?

JONES: Oh well, I was very active in this sorority, the Deltas. I became the dean of the pledgies. I ran for student government, was supposed to be a shoo-in, did not do the right campaigning I should have done and got beat, you know, which was a surprise to everybody and I learned a valuable lesson.

BOND: You have to ask.

JONES: Have to ask, never take anything for granted until it's done, you know, and that's one of the things that drives me now.

BOND: So -- but maybe these are leadership training exercises. Whether you thought of them that way or not, that's what they are. But did you think then that "I'm training for something else," or "I'm just doing something I'm interested in"?

JONES: No, I'm doing these things I'm interested in. No, and just taking lessons. I always knew there was a lesson in most things. And I didn't always know what the lesson was, but I knew it was a lesson. Losing that election like that, you know, it taught me something which stood me in good stead in subsequent years. But the friendships at Howard -- Pat Swygert, president of Howard now, was in my class, you know, that class -- we were the "Great Society" class. Lyndon Johnson came in and made the speech to that graduating class.

BOND: Right.

JONES: So a lot of different events, Julian, impacted to make me who I am. And then when I left Howard, one thing my senior year, I knew I did not want to go to law school then.

BOND: But why not?

JONES: Because I had worked so hard, you know, I had really worked hard. I mean, not only physically but academically. I mean, it was challenging. And I needed a break. I needed a break, but yet I wanted an educational break. I didn't want to just do nothing, but I wasn't ready for a three-year grind in law school and I kept thinking through that thing.

JONES: Nobody at Howard pushed me into law. Howard --

BOND: Well, into activism, into -- you know, there are lawyers and there are lawyers.

JONES: Yes, yes, yes. Let me see, how did I get pushed? I think -- now, I think what motivated me primarily was just the atmosphere at Howard. You know, I was a political science major and I said, "This is the wrong major for law school." Best major for law is English, in my opinion. English is the best major for law.

BOND: Yes, because it's reading and writing.

JONES: It's just reading and writing and speaking, you know -- but I need to think a little more -- I know Howard had an influence. Oh, I know, Jim Nabrit, Jr., who was the president of Howard --

BOND: Right.

JONES: -- became president the year I entered and I knew of his role, you know, in the legal side of civil rights movement because he had just come from being dean of the law school at Howard, you know. And so Martin Luther King came through Howard. You know, it was just the entire atmosphere, but then I honed a few political skills at Howard.

BOND: How so?

JONES: Oh well, I was very active in this sorority, the Deltas. I became the dean of the pledgies. I ran for student government, was supposed to be a shoo-in, did not do the right campaigning I should have done and got beat, you know, which was a surprise to everybody and I learned a valuable lesson.

BOND: You have to ask.

JONES: Have to ask, never take anything for granted until it's done, you know, and that's one of the things that drives me now.

BOND: So -- but maybe these are leadership training exercises. Whether you thought of them that way or not, that's what they are. But did you think then that "I'm training for something else," or "I'm just doing something I'm interested in"?

JONES: No, I'm doing these things I'm interested in. No, and just taking lessons. I always knew there was a lesson in most things. And I didn't always know what the lesson was, but I knew it was a lesson. Losing that election like that, you know, it taught me something which stood me in good stead in subsequent years. But the friendships at Howard -- Pat Swygert, president of Howard now, was in my class, you know, that class -- we were the "Great Society" class. Lyndon Johnson came in and made the speech to that graduating class.

BOND: Right

JONES: So a lot of different events, Julian, impacted to make me who I am. And then when I left Howard, one thing my senior year, I knew I did not want to go to law school then.

JONES: A lot of different events, Julian, impacted to make me who I am. And then, when I left Howard, one thing – my senior year, I knew I did not want to go to law school then.

BOND: But why not?

JONES: Because I had worked so hard. I had really worked hard, I mean, not only physically but academically. I mean, it was challenging. And I needed a break. I needed a break, but yet I wanted an educational break. I didn't want to just do nothing, but I wasn't ready for a three-year grind in law school. And I kept thinking through that thing. I said, "What can I do of interest?" Then I realized, "Elaine, you haven't been anywhere. You haven't traveled." My first plane trip I ever took was my senior year of college when I went up to the Port Authority in New York for a job interview, which I didn't get. So, I said, "You haven't done anything. I mean, Virginia, Washington. You haven't seen anything. Father took you to Chicago and New York and different things, but you still haven't seen anything." So I decided. I said, "I need to travel". First I wanted to go abroad. I said, "The Peace Corps. Peace Corps is the answer for me." And so I applied for Peace Corps and indicated I wanted to go to Turkey. I did not indicate Africa because I said later in life I will get to Africa and I would spend some time in Africa.

BOND: But you wouldn't get to Turkey?

JONES: I won't get to Turkey, not in this way. And the location of Turkey, where it was centrally located in right there in the Bosporus, between Europe and Asia. The gateway. A whole -- Muslim culture, you know, just so different and alien from anything that I knew and it would be an adventure. Also, I could travel. It was -- Turkey was located so that I could get to the Middle East, I could get to Israel. I could get to Europe, because, coming from Turkey, I came back through Luxembourg and saw Pat Harris who was the ambassador to Luxembourg. She had been my dean of women at Howard. She had been my dean of women at Howard. But I said, "I can really travel and see this part of the world," and Peace Corps accepted. I was accepted.

BOND: Is it unusual for the Peace Corps to let you go to where you want to go?

JONES: You know, I don't know at that time.

BOND: Unless you have some special language skills or something. You didn't speak Turkish?

JONES: No, but we had to learn it. We went to Princeton.

BOND: Can you do it now?

JONES: Oh -- no.

BOND: Okay.

JONES: No, I did it in law school for a little while, because the dean of the law school, Hardy Dillard who went – of University of Virginia Law School, who later went on to World Court – had a Turkish medical student living with him at the time. So, when I came back, he would put us together and I tried --

BOND: Kept it up.

JONES: Yes, right. But I haven't, you know -- and I haven't been back since I left Peace Corps, haven't been back. I need to go back and see what I can pick up. So, that's why I went to Turkey.

BOND: What did you do in the Peace Corps? What was your assignment?

JONES: It was called TEFL -- Teaching English as a Foreign Language. I taught English to Turkish medical students. Turkey had a new language as of the fall of Turkey, Ataturk in 1935. So Turkish was relatively a new language, so the textbooks were written either in German or English. The textbooks. So, they had to become proficient, and in Turkey, you went straight – at that time – straight from high school into medical school. You didn't get the liberal arts education or whatever, but you stayed in medical school for something like seven years. You know, you did medicine.

BOND: Right.

JONES: So, I was teaching English to these medical students – and it was very interesting. Teaching -- the repetitive, you know, the rote method. And I really got to love Hacettepe – the university was called. Hacettepe is in Ankara, and Ankara is the capital – not Istanbul, as a lot of people say – right in the middle, flat, right in the middle of the Anatolian Plateau. So, I would teach and I could -- after a while, I could hear my students. You know, you say, "The child has gone to school," you know, and you give them a noun like "adult" they have to put in the right place. "The adult has gone to school." Then "church." "The adult has gone to church." You know, they have to -- and so -- they have to recognize the parts of speech, and they have to recognize the appropriate verb and the nouns and the pronouns and where to put them in a sentence, and that was the oral way of teaching it, the oral word. But not only did they, were they learning and substituting the right word – and they're putting it in the right place, usually – they also were mimicking my accent. I could hear them. Come back to me as a class and I could hear this Southern twang, I said, "Oh my God, I have branded these doctors, you know, for the rest of their lives." But it was quite an experience.

BOND: Now I wonder, you know, Turkey by then is a modern sophisticated society, at least urban Turkey. And these students are, are they not? Or not.

JONES: No, they're not and you know --

BOND: Well, what did they make of you? Were you an exotic creature to them?

JONES: It was tough. See, there was no love lost. We were in the middle of Cyprus -- there was a big fight between Greece and Turkey on the island of Cyprus, and there was no love lost between the Turks and the Arabs, you know. They do not like one another, and they didn't know what I was. And I would say, "Ameri-con." I would say, "Siyah Ameri-con." Siyah means black -- siyah Americ-con. And they said, "[sound of sucking teeth] Thst, thst." That means no in Turkey, that's no way, and then say, no, no. In other words, there was no such thing as a black American. Americans were blond and blue-eyed and were not me. And so, they would say to me, "Arab. Arab" -- "You're Arab, you're Arab." So, the white Turkish volunteers – and I was the only black – the white volunteers were getting all of the negative reactions because of anti-Americanism, big wave of it in the late 60's. I was getting it also because they thought I was Arabic. Different reasons -- one time, you know, I was stoned in Turkey.

BOND: Oh really?

JONES: Yeah, yeah. Because I lived -- I didn't live -- there was an American compound there because they had a lot of service folks there, service families, big base, air force base in Turkey. But the Peace Corps, one of their requirements was that we not cluster together, that Peace Corps volunteers go out and live in the communities. And so I lived in the community, but I didn't realize that my house was in the red light district. I didn't know enough Turkish to know, and I couldn't understand these little Turkish soldiers knocking on my door. I couldn't understand it, so one day, though, some kids, I was coming home from school, and they start throwing these stones at me, you know? And a guy, they called it dolmus, which was a Turkish taxi. He got out and he shooed them away and told them to stop. He apologized effusively, you know. And so it was an adjustment period, but I'm glad I went. I'd do it all over again.

JONES: My second year of the Peace Corps, I decided, "Now it's time to go to law school." Now I was thinking about doing another third year in the Peace Corps, going to Micronesia, I had the bug then. But my mother then put her foot down. She said, "It's time to come home." Of course, every time there's an earthquake, she would have a wake at home in Virginia. All the neighbors would come in with the casseroles. So, I came on back and I took the law school aptitude test -- took everything right there in the Peace Corps building in Ankara, and so, I applied. I only applied to two law schools, University of Virginia and Howard. And I got admitted to both, and when I came back, Howard offered me everything, all the money, even to pay the rent in the apartment, everything. They said, you know, "We want you to come to Howard." And it's another principle that has guided me. I said, "You know, Howard's a great school but Howard has -- I'd learned a lot from Howard the four years I had been to Howard. It is time to do something different." Don't always do what is most comfortable and what is most familiar, you know, you need to go somewhere else. And I said, "Virginia is going to be a challenge."

BOND: But you didn't think Virginia would say yes, did you?

JONES: They had said yes.

BOND: Yes, I said, but you did not think they would say yes.

JONES: Oh no, no. When I applied to Virginia I knew about -- I had a home girl who was three years ahead of me in high school who had applied to Virginia and had great grades in college, graduated from Wheaton, and Virginia did not admit her but the state of Virginia paid her tuition to go to Harvard. So I said, "Oh, Elaine, you're on your way to Harvard," although I neglected to apply to Harvard, but I applied to Virginia because you know what, I said? I really applied because I said, "I'm going to be the test case." I said, "This is the place." I said, "I'm going to be accepted to Virginia," because I knew I had the grades and I had what I should to be admitted to this law school. I'm a Virginian.

BOND: Both in your decision to go into the Peace Corps, you're stepping outside the mold, I'm sure, of your Howard classmates.


BOND: Not many of them could have done this or been interested in this.

JONES: They weren't.

BOND: And then when you applied to Virginia and then decided to go to Virginia, after having been accepted at Howard, that's stepping outside the mold. Most, many people would have chosen Howard. Why do you want to do these different things?

JONES: That's a great question, Julian. And it's an important question because as I sit here and talk to you, it's one of these things that motivates me. You know, don't do it because it has been done that way. Find a different way to do it.

BOND: But sometimes people are told that it's been done that way because it's the right way. That's why we do it that way.

JONES: Well, but if the way is not successful, if it doesn't get you what you're trying to -- see, I'm also result oriented. If that way has not accomplished what we're trying to get, I've got to find another one. You know, and it may be something out of the box. But on the Peace Corps, it's just -- I think my growing up in my environment, which was warm and wonderful but was all African American. All African American. My college was predominantly, at that time, overwhelmingly African American. The African American experience was a part of me, and I knew it and was part of it and it was home and I was rooted in it. But I knew there was a bigger world. There's a larger world out there, and in order to function in it you've got to be exposed to it, you've got to -- and the earlier the better. I think my father traveling to Salt Lake City and all over the place and coming back, talking about the things that he had seen, had an impact on me. I also knew that the world was not an African American world, you know. I said, "Elaine, you have to be exposed to whites in America. You have to. You have to, because you want to function in a larger society and because the system has to change."

BOND: I could argue that even today, at the height of tremendous success, that you do not function in the larger society, you function in the African American world -- that you're head of this predominantly African American organization that came out of this predominantly other African American organization that devotes most if its energies to righting wrongs committed against African Americans – that you're an African American leader.

JONES: Well, I am an African American, and you're right that I lead an organization that is looking after the interest, trying to protect the interest of African Americans, but also something else -- I cannot do it by myself, without other communities in this country buying into that notion. White America, you know -- Latino America, Asian America. At LDF our cases not only impact on African Americans. They help white Americans -- I can give you example after example -- white Americans, Latinos, Asian -- because it's the law. And once you've changed and impacted on the law, it impacts on all of us. It impacts on all of us and in a diversity -- I mean, it's our board, our staff. I mean, we're completely diverse. And I said, "Our affirmative action program -- make sure I have white lawyers on my staff. It's my affirmative action program." I mean, I have to, you know. I don't have to have white lawyers on my staff, but they bring something to LDF that's valuable. And so, you look at our staff and you're going to see that mix. I would take a case – and we took one to the Supreme Court – involving the rights of a sixty-two-year-old white woman.

BOND: The Kendall -- ?

JONES: Age discrimination case. No, that's -- this is age discrimination case and the name will come to me, about three or four years ago. It'll come to me. But, here she was, age discrimination case, you know. And she thought she was about to be fired, you know. And she took some documents home from the corporation and she eventually was fired. So she said this is violation of age discrimination. She and her lawyers – she's from Tennessee – brought the lawsuit. It was dismissed from the District Court. They said during the course of her deposition it was learned that she was taking these documents home. And that's an automatic dismissible offense. So the court said that negates any age claim you may have had. So you're out of here. You know courts are always trying to clear off their dockets anyway. So she went up to the Court of Appeals, she and her lawyer. The Court of Appeals threw her out by agreeing with the lower court. Dismissed. And they created a new rule there called the After Acquired Evidence Rule. See before we go to law school, we speak English. Afterwards, it's the After Acquired Evidence Rule. So, her lawyer contacted us.

BOND: Meaning that evidence acquired after the facts, had impact --

JONES: -- had impact on the facts. In other words, during the court, after she had filed a lawsuit on basis of age discrimination, it was learned that she had taken the documents home. That was the new -- that was the after acquired evidence. And so, that new evidence -- so, the company said, "We would have dismissed her had we known she had taken the documents home although we did not know it at the time."

BOND: Right.

JONES: So that erased her claim. It's an awful rule. So, that rule was being cemented. The question was -- her lawyer then came to Legal Defense Fund, because one thing we know how to do is, usually, to get into the Supreme Court and then stay out of the Supreme Court. You have to know both sides of it. So, he came to us, and I looked at that case. I said now why should LDF spend the $50,000 because all the briefing -- that's going to cost us money. This is a white female and it's a age case, it's not a race case. You know. It's not a case about any civil rights movement age, you know. Three reasons I did it. I looked at it and I said, "Wait a minute. This is the Age Discrimination Act." Age and disability are acts closely -- they're sister statutes to the civil rights statutes, you know, to the voting and housing. All of the rights come out of a provision of the 14th Amendment. Congress has authority, so I said, "No, no, age is important." So, I said all right, they are sister statutes. What happened in the Age Discrimination Act? Eventually, if we aren't careful, we'll seep into these other provisions of law, this after acquired evidence rule and negate our claims. The second reason I took it, I said, "This is age. And if I had an African American male standing up with the Supreme Court talking about rights, it may cast a different patina over the case, but if I have an age issue, the court may look at it with some greater understanding, maybe." And then I said, "Also it helps, I think, that the plaintiff in this case below, you know, is female and also is white female." I said, "There are two justices on that court -- "

BOND: Who are white female.

JONES: -- who are white females, who will look at the facts in this case and will not only understand it but will feel the injustice of what has happened to her," you know. And I said -- and so through this we could make law that applies across the board. So, I said, "LDF's going to take this case." We took it and brought the lawyer, her lawyer, up there. We wrote the briefs at first -- had to find the question to get the Supreme Court would take the case. So, we were able to do that, and then, when the Supreme Court sent the case down for argument, I told the lawyer that we would take the case on one condition, and that is if we felt that he could really make the oral argument and make an excellent argument, you know, that he could argue. Otherwise, if we did not think he could make that argument, then he would have to give that argument up, and let one of our lawyers make it. And I said if you agree to that, you know, so he agreed. We brought him up, we mooted him, took him to the moot court and practice runs and I mean -- and then we second chaired him, took him to the high court and we had our lawyer who had worked with him, sit next to him as he made the argument. He was masterful. He was good. We won that case, Julian, reversed both courts below. Guess what the vote was?

BOND: What?

JONES: Nine-zero.

BOND: All right.

JONES: Nine zip, so that -- what I'm saying is, our issues, when we took on all of the height and weight requirements in employment law, we had so many restrictions in the law that had nothing to do with one's ability to do the job.

BOND: Right.

JONES: We said you have to be six feet tall to be a state trooper. Why? That's so when he walks around to give you the ticket, you know, you can look up at him, I guess. I don't know what that had to do with your being able to be a qualified state trooper, you had to be -- Virginia had that law. It was across the country and what did that law do? It disproportionately denied women who are not usually six feet tall. Latinos are not usually six feet tall. And so, you have a rule here that had nothing to do with your ability to do the job, that eliminated whole groups of people, but we took it in under the civil rights statute, the employment law, Title 7, challenged that in the Supreme Court. When we got that height and weight requirement – you know, to be a flight attendant, you could only be 110 pounds – that means men, most men are over 110 pounds. I mean right then was sex based and the way the rules are crafted. So when we participated in taking those cases and we get rid of the height requirement, who do you help? Not only do you help Asians and Latinos and women, you help short white men. Short white men who before that could not get the position, now could apply and be considered. That's -- but nobody thinks about the civil rights laws in that way, opening up opportunities.

BOND: They don't think them in that way and I imagine there are people who say don't go that way because you're not helping black people, even though you may be.

JONES: But when you open up -- look, opening up the system always helps us. All we want is opportunities, real opportunity, to be able to compete and do things. We are too often shut out. If you apply the same criteria and the same benefits that you give others to us, we'd be golden. I'd take it any time. But we don't get it. You know, they come down on affirmative action. This country has practiced affirmative action since its beginning. It's usually been economically based, alumni, athletes and all that kind of stuff. We say, "Give us some of these same benefits."

BOND: Well, let me take you back to law school.

JONES: Okay.

BOND: Okay, so you decide to come to the University of Virginia. They let you in, to your surprise.


BOND: You choose between Howard and U.Va. because this is a different, new experience, rather than the old and familiar.

JONES: That's right.

BOND: But in some ways it must have -- there must have been some unpleasant things about it.

JONES: Oh, oh --

BOND: What were they?

JONES: Charlottesville was a shock to my system.

BOND: As opposed to Norfolk?

JONES: As opposed to anything. At that time, when you would come to the University of Virginia -- you know, I said that I wanted to interact with the white community. Well, I had it. I had it. Completely sex segregated in the undergraduate school, and racially segregated, so everybody was white male in the entire system.

BOND: Undergraduate.

JONES: That's right, undergraduate. Law school -- there were -- I was the black woman, and then there was another African American guy who was in my class who was from Norfolk and he's now on the Court of Appeals here in Virginia. So, the two of us, and then there were -- in the class ahead of me, the second year class – there were two men, black men, and in the third year class, there was one. So there were five of us.

BOND: How many women?

JONES: Women? There were about -- a total of about nine women in that class, my class. I was one of about nine. Yeah, either seven or nine, I'm thinking it was nine. No, no, no, no -- it was about seven because your total in the law school, you had about twelve women. You didn't have any more than twelve because we had -- you could count them on the fingers of one hand in the other two classes. So, this was the biggest class of women, and it was about eight, seven or eight. But the women, you know, we were all, we only had one place to meet in the law school and we would go into the basement of the law school. There was a ladies' room, it was a three-room situation. We had the sofa in one room, refrigerator in the other, and then you had the rest room in the third section. And we would all congregate on that couch, and so -- that's the only place we had to go because they had the murals in the hall and you know, and --

BOND: Murals of what?

JONES: Murals of, you know -- I think back on the murals. They're still there, quite sexist.

BOND: Plantation scenes?

JONES: No, not plantation scenes. Orgies, sex orgies -- that's what they looked like to me, you know, with grapes and hanging in different places and so -- we just we didn't go into the mural hall, so we would go downstairs in that basement, and I tried to figure out what experiences am I having because of race and what experiences that am I having because of gender? And I could figure it out from the conversation I had with the other women, because they would talk about their experiences.

BOND: And if their experiences were common, it was gender.

JONES: It was gender.

BOND: If it was not --

JONES: If there was something different that happened, then it was race, and I could figure out what was what.

BOND: What were the gender-related experiences?

JONES: The classroom, the hypotheticals you would get in class, you know. I mean, they were just gender based. You know, "Miss Sue, she's had four boyfriends and she -- " It's something, you know and just a contract or something always in the domestic scene, domestic arena. And it's a lot of sexism, and it was unconscious sexism, you know. I mean, men would guffle and laugh, "ha ha," and so that was gender. And we discussed -- oh, also gender was when a hypothetical question was given and no one knew the answer, that you called on the woman so she would stand up and be the one who was embarrassed because she didn't know. Nobody in the class knew, nobody volunteered to raise their hand. But when that happened, you called on the woman. So we had to really try to read that stuff and be prepared. We really had to do our very best because otherwise we would be made examples of in class. And the whole notion that, you know, you're just here to find a husband. Now I don't know if they said that about me, but they said it to the white women in the class. And so, since they didn't say it about me, I said, "Well, that's a little mixture there. Both things going on!"

BOND: Well, I know a woman who was in law school at this time and was -- she was told that she was taking a man's place, she was occupying a place that ought to go to a man, and --

BOND: Well, that was, yes, they said that part to me, but they didn't say the husband part, that you're here looking for a husband. See, because when I was in law school, Loving v. Virginia, had just been decided the year before. It's unconstitutional to decide who you could marry, who you couldn't marry. It was ridiculous, but it's all a matter of law and the case came out of Virginia, you know, and the law school was still talking about that case when I came to law school a year or so later. That was a big deal.

BOND: Was there anybody who opposed it?

JONES: Well, it was something to discuss. It was something to discuss. And they didn't say they're opposing but they discussed it with awe.

BOND: Well, from these conversations with other women you could identify gender-related problems.


BOND: Now, did you have similar conversations with black students, the few other?

JONES: Yes, the few. We were a close knit group, because there were four men – one, two, three, four men – and me. And we all asked the one in the third year class, "How have you made it?" But we would come together. And the law school -- the five of us were a nucleus for others -- one or two blacks in, graduate school in English and there was somebody over in the School of Nursing, you know, and so there was a few of us and we would -- we came together and found support in one another. My classmate who was African American in that entering class, we made certain that we had different study groups. We were in different study groups, he and I both, and then we came together and compared what we both got from each study group, so we helped one another in that way, you know. But that -- so, we branched out and there were many people, not many, some who really befriended me in law school, really did. I mean, it's a handful of friends today who befriended me. Most ignored me. They knew I was there, but then I was proud of that, you know. Julian, I had the Nehru jacket and I had the Afro, you know, I was making a statement -- and the Peace Corps Jesus sandals. So -- and I think I accentuated that because of what I was dealing with.

BOND: But you know, I think our common perception of the leadership figure is the Martin Luther King. That's it. And so many people say, "Gee, I can't make a speech like that. I can't. I'm not Martin Luther King, I never will be Martin Luther King, so I can't play a leadership role." How can we find ways to show people that there are other leadership roles that fit their personality that don't have to live up this high, Martin Luther King standard?

JONES: To making a speech, that's right. And you know it's interesting -- that standard wasn't as high when Martin was living. Martin caught hell, you know, Martin caught hell, he really did.

BOND: All the time.

JONES: And he -- you know, look at the University of Virginia when he died. So in your own time, you don't get what you're entitled to. But you know -- Martin is gone. We've seen Martin's characteristics. Martin's characteristics do not define leadership. Martin's characteristics define Martin's strengths and what Martin brought to the leadership table. But just like Martin brought his characteristics, you know, Jane Doe out there can bring her characteristics, and so we have to define them for ourselves and your characteristics depend on the time that you're in.

BOND: Now, you've talked about people who were friendly and supportive, what about people who were overtly hostile?

JONES: You know, there was some of that --

BOND: Students? Teachers?

JONES: -- but not a lot, you know why? The overt hostility was collective. Let me -- see, this is Virginia and your Virginia gentlemen --

BOND: Genteel.

JONES: Civility, you know. You may think it and you may feel it, but you dare not say it -- that's uncivil. It was not said. I mean, once in a while, I got a little something. You know, "Why did you come here?" or something, but for the most part, I -- meanwhile, they didn't know what I was going to say or do, you know. They didn't know if I bought into the code of civility, because I might have just gone off on them, you know? But when I say the collective, they -- when Martin Luther King was assassinated I was in law school. I came to school that day -- no one said a word. Not a student, not a professor, no one said one word. Nothing! And at the end of the day I went to Jimmy, who was the other black person in my class, and I said, "Jimmy," I said, "Do they know?" I said, "Do they know?"

BOND: Of course they knew.

JONES: Of course, they knew. Of course they knew. But in many of their minds, King was a rabble rouser. And they didn't say it, but their thinking was, you know, he asked for it. And so, what I mean is, it was environmental, the kind -- what I'm talking about here, and you could feel it. And well, this just lets me understand, I know where I am. I know where I am. But that's an example. But if I had to do it all over again, I would do it because Virginia -- I took a chance on Virginia by coming here. They also took a chance on me.

BOND: Sure.

JONES: They took a chance. They didn't know me. They didn't know what was going -- and I could imagine the faculty meeting in which I was admitted. I just can just imagine. I think being in the Peace Corps helped my coming to Virginia, because it made them think, "Well, she's seen something of the world." You know, because they had to break out of the cocoon, and they did it with me. And that was a conscious choice that the law school made.

BOND: And your Virginia background --

JONES: Virginia background --

BOND: -- I'm sure was an asset.

JONES: Virginia background.

BOND: And dean's list.

JONES: Yes, yes.

BOND: So, you have all the right combinations.

JONES: Right.

BOND: But it is a chance for them.

JONES: It was a chance, 'cause they didn't know -- you know, there's a certain -- there is a certain style around here. There is, and it's here today, you know. And they didn't know whether I was -- was I going to buy into that? They're giving me the Virginia stamp of approval, so to speak. Do I fit within this particular culture? So it's a risk, because they don't know that. Honor system? You know, you get all of the stereotypes about African Americans and not honoring our integrity and all that, and I'm sure they were full of them. This is our system, you know that. And I'm glad we took a chance on me because it worked. It worked.

BOND: Now when you leave here -- leave the University of Virginia Law School -- you have a chance to go to a firm that becomes Nixon-Mudge. JONES: But I'm, no I'm in my third year.BOND: Oh, in your third year, you get an offer.

JONES: That's right. We get out of law school in May. We graduate in May so everybody looks for jobs the first semester of their third year. So, you have to have your job by Christmas so you know where you're going.

BOND: Right.

JONES: So I was interviewing. And meanwhile my contracts professor, who's name was [gestures] had gone to Mudge Rose and taught me contracts, did okay in law school. My contracts professor had gone to Mudge, was at the firm and so I interviewed and, lo and behold, they invited me to New York. So, I go to New York, and you talk about intimidating, Julian -- I'm scared to death. You know, I mean I think I broke out in hives and my legs started shaking so bad they wouldn't stop shaking, my left leg, I remember.

BOND: Scared of what? After the Peace Corps, earthquakes, Virginia? JONES: Peace Corps -- I'm in the bowels of Mudge Rose. It's a whole different level. You don't hear anybody walking down the hall. Everything was quiet in this inner sanctum, and here I go, in this thing. And I have to meet with this -- who's I'm sure is the senior partner, you know, and he's about seventy, you know, and he -- and I'm given the job offer. Well, it was $18,000 a year. BOND: Good money. Good money.

JONES: Oh! Today it's a $100,000. $18,000 a year, top dollar. I had debts. Peace Corps, you know. I had a National Defense loan to get through school. Law school, they didn't give me any money but I had the three percent National Defense Loan that had to be paid off and all of that. It's more money than I had ever seen, and so I accepted the job.


JONES: I accepted the job. This is October, November. Mr. Nixon had just left the law firm. He was president, because it was Nixon, Mudge, Rose. After I accepted the job, "Elaine's going to Mudge Rose," went all around the law school. It got to the point, Julian, I would walk by a mirror and I didn't want to look in it.

BOND: Now you've taken the job at the law school, and people in the law school -- I mean, at the law firm and people at law school are saying, "Elaine is going to Mudge."

JONES: Right, and they were saying it very positively. "You landed something."

BOND: Yes, indeed so, it's a tribute to them, it's a tribute to you.

JONES: Right.

BOND: So what happened?

JONES: I felt awful. After I said yes, because that's not the reason I had gone to law school, to go to Mudge Rose, and I was doing it only for money and that's another principle I picked up that stuck with me -- I stumbled into it but it's a good principle. It's all right for money to be a factor in decisions. It's the real world, you know, we need it. But when it's the only factor, and you're doing something solely because of money, then you need to stop.

BOND: Why couldn't you have said, "Well listen, I'm going to go to this law firm. I'm going to make a lot of money for twenty years, and then I'll go back to social activism. I'll be better prepared." Why couldn't you say that?

JONES: Well, some people can say that.

BOND: Sure.

JONES: And they say it now all the time. But I -- for me, I wanted to start right away. I mean, it's the reason I had gone to law school and I didn't -- I said, you know --

BOND: So it's money that's weighing on you?

JONES: Well, no.

BOND: I mean, doing something for money?

JONES: Doing something for money is weighing on me because the only motivation was money. And usually if you – and I believe that today – if you're doing something, you have to, there has to be something else about it as well. Money can be a factor. It can be a predominant factor. It can be an important and significant factor, but when it's the only reason you're doing it, that's what gives me pause and that's the only reason I was taking that job.

BOND: So how did the Legal Defense Fund come along?

JONES: Well, I wrote them and I said, "No."

BOND: So you had nothing.

JONES: I had nothing and there was a tactical error because there's somebody from the University of Virginia got that job and I should have negotiated with him, you know, who knew something. So that was another important lesson. Gave it up for nothing. But then I had no job. I gave it up after the holidays, after Christmas holidays. And I went to the dean's office. And I told the dean, I said, "I have no job." He said, "What do you want to do?" I said, you know, "I want to be a civil rights lawyer. That's why I came to law school." He said, "Well, look, I'm going to call my friend, Jack Greenberg who's head of the Legal Defense Fund and I'll get you an interview with him." And I [say], you know, "Thank you, thank you," and so that's what happened. I went up to New York the next week and LDF's office is in 10 Columbus Circle and I got to the offices and all the offices were empty. I got to the offices around two o'clock in the afternoon, walked around, nobody was there, and I said, "This is interesting, laboring in the civil rights vengeance and there's no one here, you know." And come to find out, there had been a bomb scare and they emptied the offices. I don't know how I got up there wandering around, but when they came back to the office, Jack and I interviewed and he hired me right there.

BOND: On the spot.

JONES: Right there on the spot.

BOND: And so you finish law school, you go to work for them.

JONES: I go to work for them --

BOND: And so you finish law school, you go to work for them [Legal Defense Fund].

JONES: I go to work for them.

BOND: And over time --

JONES: And I stopped the death penalty, and I spent my whole time running across the South, primarily in Alabama and Georgia, representing black men who were on death row for allegedly raping white females. That's what they were on death row for.

BOND: Yeah, because that carried the death penalty.

JONES: Rape! Because it -- and the death penalty could be anything the state decided. I have tried cases in which the state of Alabama had tried to get the death penalty for a sixty-year-old black man for nighttime burglary. Nighttime burglary, capital offense in Birmingham! So, I worked on the Ku Klux Klan, you know, the whole thing. I was going to court and the bailiff would come and tell me to "Move, lady, this is for the lawyers." No. "Ma'am, this is for the lawyer," being polite, you know. Big man, six-four, six-five, guns on both hips.

BOND: And when you told him you were the lawyer?

JONES: Mouths would drop, first with disbelief and then they would have to go check with somebody. You know, and the judges! I mean, they just couldn't believe it. I mean this is '71, '72, '73 in the deep South. Deep South. There was one case I had in Cullman, Alabama. It was so deep. I was trying to get a change of venue for a young black boy. And I told the judge, I said, "Judge, you know there's a lot of racial animus here." I said, "There's a sign that says" – and I quote, it used the N word – it said, "Nigger, if you're reading this sign you're too deep in Cullman." I said, "That's on the side of the road." And he said, "Oh! I've heard about that sign, but I've never seen it."

BOND: Well, as was true in law school, is it gender or is it race or is it ever both?

JONES: It's both and I was asked, someone asked me once, "Elaine, which is it -- gender discrimination? Race discrimination?" and I said, "You know, I can't pull myself apart." I pull myself – I'm an African American woman, that's what I am. When people see me though in the world, the world we live in they see race first. That's the reality. They see race first. Then they see me as a black, which is race, then woman follows. They don't say "woman black" – it's "black woman." And so I'm very clear on that and I have always been clear on it. Now I'm very active with women's groups, white women's organizations, and I serve on the board. You know, we work together, but my rule is -- I tell them, I say, "Look, don't ask me to support anyone, I don't care if she's female, but if she's female and her head is not right on the issue of race, I can't. Nothing I can do. Don't ask me to support that simply because she's female." You know. And so people who work with me understand that.

BOND: Some people think movements throw leaders up, some people think leaders create movements, and some people think it's a combination of all these kinds of things. Now, what is it with you? Which of these? All of these?

JONES: You know, you won't believe this, but leader -- I don't see myself as a leader.

BOND: But you are a leader by virtue, both of your position and of your personality.

JONES: Thank you very much. I know -- but you don't start out trying to be a leader.

BOND: No -- "I'm going to be a leader."

JONES: You don't do that, you're going to be a leader, you step on up --

BOND: Some people do, some people do.

JONES: Do they succeed?

BOND: Sometimes they do. Yes, they do.

JONES: No, I start out -- my focus is to do a job, to solve a problem, I mean, to deal with issues. And Julian, I like to win. I like to win. I'm competitive, and so I want around me a wide range of people who think outside the box, who are the best lawyers that are out there and I -- and we've got some good ones, you know. And then reach out of the bar and talk to others, you know, in different disciplines and look at a particular problem I'm trying to address, and let's -- and I'm result oriented, you know. The theory is helpful, you know -- so get me the expert witnesses -- and what all of it is to get a remedy to get the problem identified, and to get a remedy. And so, I am result oriented, which I don't make an apology for.

BOND: No, no, you shouldn't.

JONES: I don't.

BOND: But you know some people are not result oriented, some people are not solutions oriented, some people are who knows what, but you are. And maybe it's hard to be introspective -- why are you? I mean, the job requires it, but why are you? You couldn't have been attracted to the job unless you have it.

JONES: Well, I think it's -- everyday I wake up, it's a challenge. I mean, it's a challenge. It is -- the job I have is a tough job. It is. And the only way that I can make it and do this job the way I think it should be done is I have got to be energized by adversity. I can't be -- it can't subdue me. It can't cause me to have self doubt, it can't cause me to go away in depression and despondency. It's there for me to fight. It's a challenge. And so that is the way I deal with it. You know, when you're head of an organization, also -- people with whom you're working, and working with everyday, they've got to know you believe in them and that you're in a common cause. You're in a common cause. We've got a mission to do here, and we don't necessarily have all we need to do it, you know, but we're going to give it our best shot and what we don't have, we're going to find. We're going to get it, 'cause we're here to do a job. There's no one that can do the job that we've been given to do. We have to do what we do, and we have to do it well. And I just, I don't know where the -- it comes from within, it just comes from within.

BOND: And from mother and father, circumstances surrounding, neighborhood growing up, and so on?

JONES: All of that. That's right.

JONES: We've got to find a way...the public education part of this thing -- I mean, the public education issue in America. Because it's sort of a ho-hum attitude. And so, that's why we work so closely with the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, because issues that we face, they too face in different ways. You know, when we did the whole issue about English-only, that looked like whites only to me. I can see that. You know, now we -- after we've gotten through that period, we realize how valuable it is for our kids to be multi-lingual, you know, to have several languages under their command. But, I don't know where it comes from.

BOND: Well, I've thought that one of the biggest challenges to black leadership, or minority leadership generally, is how do you engage the majority? It's not how you engage the minorities. How do you engage the majority, and that's a challenge that I don't think we've met.

JONES: No, no, we haven't, but one of the ways -- you know, we would be surprised at the vast number of people of good will in this country who are non-minority who understand that the job is not yet done, and who are willing, if called upon, you know, in discreet and purposeful targeted ways, to help, would help. But that -- and I believe that's the majority, for that majority is silent.

BOND: Yes.

JONES: They're silent, and we've got to find ways to engage them. But, you know, where we're falling short is our public education effort. It takes money. It really takes money to get the word out, and the far right has had it, and they've organized. I mean, they started organizing in the mid-70s and they've got a huge organization. Lawyers are part of it, you know, the community organizing is a part of it, but the biggest part of what they do is public education.

BOND: Propaganda, propaganda.

JONES: That's right. And we've got to figure out how -- we don't have to craft the message, we know what the message is. But we have to find ways of coordinating our activities and focusing on this public education. The leadership development has to be with us making sure we get these quality schools for our kids and help our kids to dream. Our kids -- too often, their dreams are dashed. Kids, you know, are inquisitive and creative -- we -- that's beaten out of them, and then the circumstances beat them down. So, we're on the right track when we stick with this whole question of quality public education. If we lose that, we've lost it.

BOND: Yeah.

JONES: If we lose that, this fight that we're in now up to our eyeballs on quality public education --

BOND: Because that's where most kids are and they're going to be.

JONES: 94 percent, and in a democracy? The democracy -- if we don't have a certain level at which we educate or afford all of our kids exposure, so give them the opportunity to have an educated mind, we really, we can implode. And that's real.

BOND: Because you read these surveys that say 60 percent of black people support these measures that are going to de-fund and de-legitimize public education in America.

JONES: Because we have failed. We have failed in the public education effort. When you give that voucher that's worth $2,000 or $2,500 and the private school, that $8,000. Where is the $6,000 going to come from? And it's an illusion.

BOND: But so many people are so desperate for their children. That part of leadership must be responding to this 60 percent. How do you respond to that 60 percent?

JONES: It is. It is.

BOND: Do you just do what the majority wants to do, or do you say to the majority,"No, you're wrong. You're wrong"?

JONES: Oh no, no, you have to tell them -- obligation of leadership

BOND: I mean you may not say it like that.

JONES: Yes, but you've got to have -- I've got three hundred cases across the country, most of them in the South, that have to do with the quality of elementary and secondary education and these are cases that are holdovers for the court still has jurisdiction over, you know, whether they're going to get the computers, where you're going to put the computers, whether or not the school should be built in this community or that community. The only way you can stay in court on these issues is the issue of race and segregation. Although we know economics and class are important issues, there's no statutory basis that I know of, a constitutional basis to get into court on those issues. Poverty -- how can I go to court on poverty? The basis, the legal framework is not there. The legal -- oh, I've got to find a race angle to get these issues dealt with. And so I take what I'm given, and so in these cases -- and we're going from community to community -- you'll be surprised, a lot of folks, a lot of people who are never polled understand the value of public education. They are a little depressed about the quality, and no one has shown them how we can turn this thing around, which is our responsibility.

BOND: But you have to understand their frustration. We've been trying to turn it around for years and years and years and years.

JONES: Yeah, but what we have to have, Julian, what we have to have is this -- we've got to have a dedicated arm of us fully funded and endowed that does this -- public education on these issues. And does it, I mean, with all the sophistication that one has, and we don't have that.

BOND: In minority communities generally, black communities particularly, you keep hearing people talk about a crisis of leadership.

JONES: Right.

BOND: Is there a crisis, and if there is a crisis, what is it?

JONES: I don't think there's a crisis. You know what the problem is?

BOND: What?

JONES: We're looking outside of ourselves for leaders. We're looking outside. We're looking -- where is the leader? No. We've got to look inside, what is it that I can do?

BOND: But society, both the larger society and the smaller society that you and I are part of, it wants leadership figures. It wants identifiable people -- "That's the leader, that's the man or woman in charge."

JONES: Right, but you know -- our -- we -- because of the complexity of our world and life today, it's very, very difficult. We're moving away from that. In many ways we're more fragmented. Although you know, Internet and technology, communication and e-mail and all that, we're still fragmented because we're living in our own cocoons. Our families, our gated communities, our environments wherever we are. And it's interesting, it's almost at inverse proportions: the more we can have mass communication, the faster we can communicate, the smaller our areas of real interaction with other people. You know, we have -- the -- just the vastness and the speed of communication have – what is it, impersonalized, is that the word I'm looking for?

BOND: Yes, yes.

JONES: Impersonalized our relationships. You know, we don't talk to each other any more, get our facial expression, interaction. We read it on e-mail. And so, as we are able to communicate faster, more globally, our spheres of interaction with people is getting smaller. Therefore, we are even more fragmented.

BOND: And more impersonal.

JONES: And more impersonal. That's right. And that's what happening to us, which means this whole idea of leaders means looking to one or two or three people that can lead a fragmented community, because even with our communities, we're more fragmented. You know, I don't think it's going to get us anywhere. We have got to – when you said, leadership – we've got to develop leadership. We've -- our children have got to think and understand that they can bring something to the table.

BOND: Well, what about the future, what's next?

JONES: Well, what we have to do -- we're into some -- this is the turning point now for us in this country. As we become more brown and more yellow and more black, as we -- the next, you know, thirty years, thirty or forty years, we can't fear that. We can't fear that. We have to work to embrace our increasing diversity. If we don't we'll be --

BOND: So many people are afraid of this.

JONES: They're afraid of it --

BOND: People in the majority lose the majority. People in minority, "The other minority is going to take my place."

JONES: That's right.

BOND: Our whole history is trying to get people to overcome fear. How do you do that?

JONES: I know, I know. I wish I had the answer, Julian. All I can say is that we have to undertake the effort and what I'm hopeful is that, as we become more diverse, that people will have greater interaction. It's going to come from smaller communities, families, neighbors, you know, although we're more segregated now than we have been in the past. I mean, we're really segregated. And I'm just hopeful that we can get a national discussion going on. But we have to start locally. That "Look, this is happening, we won't fear it and for the sake of our country still being where we are -- it means that this is not a problem, but this diversity issue is something that has to be embraced and we cannot --

BOND: We're roughly a couple of months from the end of the Clinton administration, which tried to start this discussion --

JONES: Yeah but --

BOND: -- and it didn't happen.

JONES: Well, there was a problem there, you know. You've got to have a certain moral force. There's a moral, strong moral argument here. People have to know that they can -- will listen, and rightly or wrongly, these people haven't listened to this president on these issues, although he has understood them. He hasn't been able to get people to act on them, but we can't leave it up to the president. We can't leave it up to the president. It's got to be wider and deeper than that, and we really have to impact on the education community. We have to start working with these unions and the teachers and the public education, the academic institutions, you know, that train our folk. And it's just -- it's a massive grass roots effort. Top down won't work.

BOND: But you think we can do it?

JONES: We can't fail. We don't have the luxury of failing.