Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Extracurricular Activities as Leadership Practice

BOND: To go back a little bit and talk about both high school and college experiences and maybe law school experiences, too, here you're in these student body positions, these are leadership positions. What did they do and other positions like those that you may have held, to give you the skills, the temperament to be a leader?

BISHOP: It's all in the experience, in the practice. When I was in junior high school and high school, our teachers and principals at assemblies day in and day out would say, "Young people, what you ought to be, you're now becoming," and it sounded like old folks' talk and I'd never paid that much attention to it, but I participated and as I participated, unknowingly I was gaining experience, confidence, and the kind of skills that it would take to, whether I was negotiating with my ninth grade class or my twelfth grade class or the student body and the administration at Morehouse over these conditions or ultimately Tom Murphy and the Governor and the General Assembly. These kinds of experiences prepared me for it as did my leadership participation in the Boy Scouts, starting off as a Tenderfoot going to 2nd Class, 1st Class, Star, Life, Eagle and then Senior Patrol Leader which is a leadership position where you have to lead other younger Scouts.

In the Order of the Arrow, being head of the ceremonial team and the top person, having started out as Kichkinet who was a messenger in the ritual and ending up being Allowat Sakima who was the High Chief. It's a learning experience, a growing experience and you get to have mentors and you get to see people with whom you can try to pattern yourself and so you — I'll give you a perfect example. When I got to high school, there was a young man — I was tenth grade, he was twelfth grade. He was student government president. He was very articulate. He was on the P.A. system every morning. One of his duties was to give the morning announcements, so it was like Good Morning America. He was on there. He was giving the announcements, including the menu for the day in the cafeteria. He was articulate, so articulate that everyone and particularly me, wanted to emulate him, wanted to talk like him and be like him and by the way, that was Dr. James Raphael Gavin III, the immediate past president of the Morehouse School of Medicine. He was my SGA president when I was in tenth grade and he was the guy that I wanted to be like. He ended up going to Livingstone but he ended up at Emory in biochemistry, in the Ph.D. program when I was at Emory Law School so we ended up being together again, but he was the guy that really inspired me and whom I tried to emulate.