Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Impact of Brown: Doors Opened

BOND: Do you have a sense now all these many years after Brown in ’54, all these many years ago, how it did affect your life, even though initially you thought it didn’t touch you at all?

CANADA: Well, there were some really I think important ways that it impacted my life. First of all, I think that it really said that there was something going on in this country that allowed those of us who weren’t part of that initial generation of the civil rights movement, that there was some doors that were being opened and we had better take advantage of it. And, by the way, I think this was a generation — I think my generation, so I was born in ’52, so right now I’m fifty-six. I’ll be fifty-seven in January of 2009, so my generation was the first generation that actually got some benefit from Brown v. Board of Education but it allowed us to think there’s an answer and you know what the answer is. The answer is education and you get a good education and you go out and you just open up this thing so everybody else will come charging in behind you and it really focused me on saying people fought, people died for this. Now, I’ve got to take advantage of this opportunity and try and change what’s going on in my community and I think a lot of us felt that the competition, the absolute pressure on us to prove that we deserved to be sitting next to white students, that we could compete at the same level, drove a lot of us to actually strive for excellence and I think there’re a group of people and I look and I see this group that’s from my generation, that’s sort of in the top places in America.

I was in the school at the same time Ken Chenault was and there’re just a number of us from that generation that thought that this battle is about getting A's and about showing folk that we are just as intelligent and smart as whites and that was part of the I think culture of our growing up because it wasn’t at that time — it seems — now people think, oh, that’s such a racial thing to say. There were actual studies where people were trying to prove the inferiority of races when I was still in college. There were people who were writing about this why this was really genetics, this was not — so, we felt that we were in the vanguard of that struggle and I think Brown v. Board of Education was the first thing that opened up the doors and allowed us to really get quality educations all over this country.