Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Early Mentors: Teachers

BOND: Now, the other people that you mentioned, the teacher whose class you did not attend—

BUTTS: Bessie Jackson.

BOND: What did they — what was the influence on you?

BUTTS: Oh, Bessie Jackson was like an aunt, a grandmother, a mother. She was in the community. You could see her. She was part and yet she was the one who was in the school teaching you. She never taught me directly, but indirectly she was teaching me. It’s almost undefinable. Oh, and she demanded of you your best. If she saw you doing something you weren’t supposed to do — “Stand up. Straighten up” — and because she looked like your aunt or your grandmother or your mother, and she wasn’t afraid of you. I said, “Stand up.” I said, “Get up. Shut up. Sit down,” and she knew your mother so that was the other side of it, so it was that sense in which she was really an educator -- educare -- to pull out of you the best that’s in you, to lead you out of bad behavior into good behavior. She was wonderful.

Mr. Parker, on the other hand, was just — he frightened you, you know, and “gahhh” and you wanted to — but you didn’t know what to say, but he made you think.

BUTTS: Of course.