Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Early Mentors: Lincoln University

LEFFLER: You talked about your parents as significant mentors. Who else do you remember from your earliest years? Were there people at Lincoln University that you remember? Were there specific friends of your parents?

BOND: Well, we lived at Lincoln next door to the dean, a man named Joseph Hill, who was a man of enormous culture. He later left academia and went to Cleveland where he helped found a theater which is going on today, a celebrated community theater, professional theater. I can't remember the name of it now. But anyway a man of enormous culture and he was so distinguished looking and distinguished acting that it was the kind of person you modeled yourself after. You think "When I grow up I want to be a little like that." Wore three-piece suits. Looked very much the academic or the stereotypical academic. So I remember Dean Hill a great, great deal and these other people. So I'm living in a community where all the adults have a Ph.D. And many of them -- these are almost all men. There are some women. And all of the women have some professional training of some kind. They had been school teachers or were school teachers, so on. So you're living in the midst of this community of accomplishment. Because my father was president, into our house come all these figures, who came to Lincoln to make speeches -- Albert Einstein. I have a picture of my father and Albert Einstein standing together. I have a picture of myself sitting on Paul Robeson's knee while he sings to me. I have a picture earlier from Fort Valley State College of W. E. B. Du Bois, E. Franklin Frazier and my father consecrating my sister and I -- we're three and four -- to a lifetime of scholarship.Now, of course, at the time you meet Albert Einstein and you know he's a famous person, but if you're seven or eight years old you don't have any real appreciation for who he is. But I lived in this kind of world. I don't imagine it was very different from that of any other child growing up on any other small liberal arts college campus anyplace else in the country. Except this was a special place. Lincoln was thought of as the black Princeton.

LEFFLER: It's the oldest black university.

BOND: Yes. The oldest black university, founded originally to train missionaries to go to Africa. Developed later into just a regular liberal arts college and a college of some great distinction. It really educated the cream of the crop. These were young people who if they were Southerners couldn't go to their state universities or private universities in their states. Didn't want to go to the state-supported black colleges of their states because they were a cut below Lincoln University, and Lincoln was a prestigious school.