Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Grandmother's Influence

BOND: So your parents are dissatisfied with the public education in Jacksonville. You only go to school half a year and they send you to D.C. to go to school, you and your sister, your older sister. Are you happy about that? Are you eager to do that?

COLE: Oh, I don't think that I was very happy about that at all. I mean, I'm a kid. I'm eight years old. I want my mommy and I want my daddy. And I wasn't so sure about Grandma Betsch. Now Grandma Betsch, my paternal grandma, was the head of the household into which my sister and I would live. And I knew Grandma Betsch and some of the things that I remembered most about Grandma Betsch I wasn't so sure about. And she lived in North Carolina -- Henderson, North Carolina -- and we would visit during the summers. I had two strong memories. One, Grandma Betsch would get us up early in the morning. And whenever we asked the question, "Grandma Betsch, why do we have to get up so early?" The answer was so simple, so clear in her mind: So we could get the beds made up. And so I knew that there would be a little more discipline, a little more of a regimented life than I was used to. I also remember the standard luncheon at Grandma Betsch's house, which was two slices of white bread and a sandwich spread. And I kept looking for what was going to join the sandwich bread. So I went with some hesitations. I really, really did. It turned out to be a wonderful experience. To have a day-to-day relationship with a grandma. I had missed that on my maternal side, although I had been taken care of by my maternal grandmother's sister, by Aunt Nyna. Washington was -- it was fun in a lot of ways. It was about snow. There were kids on the block, including someone that you know, Art Robinson. Who later re-entered my life and we are now married. Washington, it was a good period in my life. But I was not at all unhappy when at age ten my parents said, "Enough of this, we're bringing you home."

BOND: So not happy to go, and not happy to leave and come back.