Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Spiritual Influences: Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam

BISHOP: Of course, while I was in college, I learned of Malcolm X and they were passing the book around in the dining hall. I got the Autobiography of Malcolm X and I was glued to it for forty-eight hours. I mean, I just couldn't put it down, just really changed my outlook on a lot of things on life.

Then in 1968 I had the opportunity as I graduated from Morehouse after Dr. King's assassination to attend several sessions of the African People's Congress, which was held at Morehouse.

BOND: In the gym.

BISHOP: In the gym and, of course, I had the opportunity for the first time to be acquainted with a man known as Minister Louis Farrakhan who was so impressive that night that people stopped in mid-stride.

BOND: That was his speech in which he called his assistant to the stage and he's talking about how important Elijah Muhammad is and he used this guy as a bulletin board. Do you remember that? He said, "You don't let your heart" — boom, and he hit this guy in the heart — "tell your head what to do. You don't let your stomach" — I'd never seen anything like that in my life.

BISHOP: But, I mean, I was just so taken by his message and his manner that I rushed out to the mosque the next day to hear him, but I had so much exposure, so many influences and, of course, when I even mentioned the possibility of joining The Nation, my father —

BOND: I bet he hit the ceiling.

BISHOP: He had a real, real time with that and, of course, he was persuasive in his own way in at least causing me to pause and, of course, I learned a lot about a lot of things and, of course, world religions, Judaism. I grew up in Christianity and, you know, ultimately I had to choose between going to Emory Law School and Crozier. I decided the week before school started I was going to Emory.