Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Student Leadership: High School and Morehouse

BISHOP: But those were very important years for me. I had a high school teacher when I got to tenth grade, who for some reason tapped me out and said, "You need to get in the Student Council. I want you in the Student Council." So I ran for the Sophomore Class President and I won. He encouraged me. I ran for the Vice President of the Student Council the next year and won. He encouraged me to run for District President; I did and won and then he encouraged me to run for State President and the local School President and I won both of those, so I was a State President of the Alabama State Association of Student Councils.

Now, mind you, this is still during the days of segregation. This is 1964, 10 years after Brown, but schools are still for the most part, still segregated, so the student councils were also segregated and so every southern state had two state associations of student councils and, of course, as State President, the Williamsburg Student Burgesses that was sponsored and hosted by a lady by the name of Dorothy Gordon. She was some national radio syndicated person, but it was a youth forum and we talked about international affairs and national issues and the president of each of the State Associations of Student Council were invited to represent their state, except each southern state had two representatives, a black one and a white one. I was the black one from Alabama and we went to Colonial Williamsburg. It was a very, very interesting opportunity for me.

I got to function in an inter-racial setting and I got to figure out that I was just as smart, just as articulate as the white kids were and that just as I'd learned when I went to the National Boy Scout National Jamboree in Colorado Springs, which was also integrated, that, you know, I could compete, but, again, I went to Morehouse and was influenced by Dr. King.