Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Social Movements

BOND: Some people categorize the making of leaders in three ways: first, great people cause great events. Next, movements make leaders. A third, the confluence of unpredictable events creates leaders appropriate for the times. Does one of these fit you?

BUTTS: If people see me in a leadership role —

BOND: And they do.

BUTTS: It is only because of the confluence — how did you say that?

BOND: The confluence of unpredictable events creates leaders appropriate for the time.

BUTTS: That, or the one prior to that.

BOND: Movements make leaders.

BUTTS: Or movement makes leaders. So, I just — you know, it’s almost like I am in no way comparing myself to the great Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but it’s almost like Dr. King. Dr. King went to Montgomery. I’m not sure that he knew he was going to walk into what he walked into.

BOND: I’m sure he didn’t.

BUTTS: Yeah, and he was just ready for the moment. He was young. Well, a little bit of inexperience and untouched by the local politics. He rose to the occasion. It’s what Dr. Mays, Dr. Gloucester, it’s what they prepared us to do, so there is a person who will never get an opportunity to meet you, who will not sit before this camera who is in a small town, you know, and is as much of a leader as anybody else we’ve ever known because they’re prepared. They are handling the situation where they are. That’s all I’m doing. The confluence — I think that was the word you used, of those events.

BOND: Yes. Right.

BUTTS: I just happened to arrive back home in 1972. Powell had just died. Dr. Proctor, who was a molder of young men and women, was there, you know. We were fraternity brothers. The people just — I was young and so they embraced me as their little boy. I had a family. They loved that and I threw myself into work. I was broke. I didn’t know what else to do but work and I was deeply committed as a result of all around me to the elevation and forward progress of African people, and so if there is some notion that I’m an leader, it is only because I have assumed the responsibility that has been given to me.