Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Private Education: George School

LEFFLER: So you take that heritage, that legacy, and you go to the George School for your high school years?

BOND: Yes. The local public high schools -- well first, the lower grade schools were one-room schools. I mean on the one hand a good education because when you're in the first grade you hear the second-grade class and then you hear the third-grade class. So you know, you're really getting educated two or three times over. But they really were inadequate schools. The local public schools, the lower Oxford Township Consolidated High School was just not a good school. My parents wanted better for us. So they sent my sister to a private school in Cambridge, Mass., and myself and my brother as well -- and myself I went to the George School in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. And my preparation was so poor I had to repeat my first year, so I was at this school five years. I had to repeat the first year and come back again because the work was just above me. I was smart. Could read, write and do all those kind of things. But I didn't have any kind of foundation to compete with these other kids who had had a superior education all along.

But that was a wonderful place, too. It was a Quaker school once first, and it began to acquaint me with this philosophy. I'm not at all religious but you know the Quakers believe there is some God in every person. The religious service doesn't have a minister. You can get up and speak. I can get up and speak. Joe, Mary, Frank, anybody can get up and speak if we think we have something to offer. That kind of democratic thought, I think, had a great deal of effect on me at an early age, and of course I wasn't processing it quite in this way. I think it's something I began to realize later on. But the Quakers are wonderful, wonderful people and this was a wonderful school.

LEFFLER: Did you feel any sense of loneliness of leaving home.

BOND: Oh yes. Oh yes. It was terrible. First, I was the shortest person in the school.

LEFFLER: Really?

BOND: And we had dances, and of course I'd never danced with a girl before. But I learned how. But you know I'm having to dance like this instead of like this. So that was a little off-putting. When I -- I was the only black boarding student -- there was another black day student, but I was the only black boarding student. So, there was a black couple, a husband and wife. He taught. She worked in the administration. And there were black people working in the kitchen. But that was the color presence at the George School. You were often made, unconsciously made or unintentionally made to feel unwelcome. We used to get -- the big deal was to get a package from home with cookies and cakes and stuff like that because we didn't have a store where you could buy this stuff. You'd pass it around the room. Somebody would say, "Am I a nigger? Why aren't you giving it to me?" "Oh, Bond, we don't mean you." I'd say, "If you don't mean me, who do you mean?" So there were those kind of moments. But generally speaking it was a wonderful experience, a good experience.

LEFFLER: So are you saying that you felt a sense of a color line at the George School?

BOND: Oh, yes. I felt a sense of a color line and I felt initially this enormous loneliness. I'd never been away from home before you know, just for any period of time, living in a dormitory room with a stranger, someone I'd never met until then. Someone who became a close friend and remained a close friend for many, many years but your parents have left you there. You're there with your clothes. Got to pack them up. Oh, yeah. It was awful.