Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influential People – Parents

BOND: That's a great segue to the next question. Who were the people who were important to your life, your growing-up years? Your parents, I'm sure.

DOVE: Absolutely. My parents — Even today, I am realizing the ways in which they sacrificed and stepped back and pushed but still stepped back. My parents were absolutely essential. My father is a chemist. He's retired now. He's about to turn 92, but he inspired in all of us the sense that you are your own judge. You know what you've done. You know what you haven't done and you should always be ready. You should be 150% ready and expect that people will only acknowledge 50% and just let it go because you know what you've done. There were books in the house. We weren't discouraged from reading any of them, so that if I wanted to read Shakespeare at 11, which I did because it was the biggest book in the house — no one said, oh, that's too hard — they just let me at it, thinking, well, she'll either get it or she won't and I took away what I could and I left the rest, but that kind of process of discovery in terms of learning was absolutely invaluable. My mother was a housewife. I found out many many years later that at 16 she had graduated from high school early, she'd skipped two classes, and her parents wouldn't let her take a scholarship to Howard because they were afraid of their little girl in a big city and they said, well, she'll just get married anyway. But this woman would stand there making dinner and slice up the roast beef and start quoting Macbeth, "is this the knife I see before me?" and I thought that's just the way mothers talked. I didn't realize it was Shakespeare until I found out, but that's okay. So, these little examples.