Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influence of Brown

BOND: Now when you look back at it, fifty years in the future, today, at -- what does it seem to have meant to you over the passage of those fifty years? What did the Brown decision mean, what does it mean today?

GREGORY: It brought us to where we are now, that America is a better place. You know -- you know, in the old days people used to have a system where they'd ring the bell to let you know dinner is served. You know, and everybody would jump up and you'd wait for the bell instead of saying, "At five o'clock today we're going to eat." That was like the bell ringing that there's a new menu. Not it might not be what I wanted, but to the folks that didn't want it at all, that was horror for them. You see it had more effect on white folks than black folks.

BOND: How so?

GREGORY: Because at all once, all of the stuff that they had conjured up in their head about Negroes, all at once it now -- "You mean they going to be next to my children?" "Yeah, they're going to be next to your children, if the Army got to take a gun and do it." And it never dawned on them that, "Wait a minute, if these Negroes is as dumb as we know they are, and my white school is as good as I know it is, then good schools will flunk out dumb people."

But now anytime you're telling me that a dumb black child of mine is going to mess up your school -- your school, in the first place, but -- so all of that ignorance, all of that meanness, all of that bitterness, which you never had to think about -- and then all at once for years after slavery, where black folks had just gone along, there were no rumbles.

And so, it was just this quiet atmosphere with all this mess going on underneath. So now all at once -- for instance, I used to look at a bus with white children, passed by me, taking them to a good white school. And then -- and they just said "bussing" then. And then when I had to get on the bus, they changed the word to "forced bussing." Then you start seeing the meanness and the hatred and then you know that you're in for a struggle ‘cause at the time I didn't know there was a thing called white supremacy and most of the white folks that participate in all that hate, they don't know anything about it.

Because if all black folk disappeared from America, the poor white folk would catch hell. ‘Cause somebody going to be this boy's nigger.