Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Experiences of Community

LEFFLER: In your growing up years you lived for many years, in your formative years, on the campus of Lincoln University. Is that correct?

BOND: Yes.

LEFFLER: So you lived in a fairly isolated environment. In fact, in the biography that's been written of your family Roger Williams quotes your sister saying you lived in a very isolated community and it was a very isolated existence. Would you agree with that?

BOND: Yes. Well, both Fort Valley where we lived for the first five years of my life, and then Lincoln where we lived for the next twelve years, were rural. So isolated in that sense. They were sort of closed communities, college campus. Closed in that sense and isolated.You're surrounded by a relatively small group of people who are your neighbors and your friends. So although at Lincoln University I went to public school and was educated with a wide variety of children from the surrounding community in my non-school life I lived in this very small world, populated by academics, their spouses and children and in many ways it was a world cut off from the larger world although the larger world was always present, ever-present and ever-intruding, and we went in and out of it. But it really was a closed society.

LEFFLER: How was that larger world ever-present? What do you mean by that?

BOND: Well, I remember once we were sitting on our front porch at our home in Lincoln, and Lincoln is off the main highway between Philadelphia… It really runs from Key West to Augusta, Maine, Route 1. So anybody could drive in there, and we're sitting on the porch and you hear this [sound effect] and then [sound effect]. And someone had shot at the house. It was a typical president's house with big columns in the front. Those shots hit the columns. And had they hit us, we would have--who knows what might have happened? We didn't realize at the time what it was but that was the world intruding.

We lived at Lincoln very close to the Maryland border and in Rising Sun, Maryland, was a Klan center and the Klan held rallies there and burned crosses and did all those things. So you knew that was there. You knew it intruded. The time came when Lincoln students went into the nearby town of Oxford and sat in the downstairs part of the movie theater, which was segregated by custom, not by law. That caused a tremendous hubbub in the neighborhood. They'd violated this racial code that had stood unchallenged for all these years because they were college students. They were young people. They were from Philadelphia and Norfolk and Washington and New York and, you know, big city people.They wouldn't tolerate this kind of attitude. So there was always tension. Both the normal town/gown tension that you see in every academic community surrounded by a larger community and a black/white tension. Here's this overwhelmingly black male campus -- Lincoln was all men then -- surrounded by this rural white countryside populated by these little towns around there. So there's always tension in the air. But it didn't come in all the time. Most of the time this was idyllic. Imagine living in a place where you had your own gymnasium because the university gymnasium was open to all of us. You had your own playing fields -- football fields, baseball diamonds, all those kinds of things.

So in many ways it was an idyllic life.