Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Early Mentors: Community Members

BUTTS: I had another big influence. Now, I’m getting a little older.

BOND: That's okay.

BUTTS: Booker Sumner Garnett has a daughter. Booker’s passed now, Mr. Garnett, but his daughter Avril was my girlfriend in high school. She was a cheerleader, beautiful, beautiful. Jet black, just gorgeous, but I'd go to visit her but I couldn’t really see her until her father finished with me. Now, he was a nationalist, Richard B. Moore, Marcus Garvey, and he was the one who said to me, “Do you know who you are?” I said, “Well, I’m Calvin Butts.” “No, do you know who you are?” I said, “Well — " Then we went on. I said, “I’m a Negro.” He said, “Negro?” He looked at the map. He said, “Where’s Negro Land? Point to it.” I said, “Well, it’s not — " He said, “Because you’re not a Negro. There’s no such thing.” And then we would go on and then so after about an hour and a half with him I could see his daughter for fifteen minutes, but he was very powerful. As a matter of fact, my high school essay — “I’m Not a Negro, I’m an African American.”

These things continue to come at me, along with reading about Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., hearing and reading about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall, hearing as a young boy speak Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays.