Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Father's Racial Socialization Messages

DOVE: My father — I remember my father studying index cards at home and I asked my mother what he doing and she said, "well, he has to give a presentation and he's studying these cards," and he would study them for days, quietly, to himself and so even without thinking about it, I realized you have to prepare these things. My father is a very shy man. You'd never guess it, but I knew that he was shy and then I knew that he had to do this thing. He never complained. He just did it. And I should back up on this to say that at the time that my father was doing it and practicing these speeches, I was not aware of the fact that what he had to go through to become a chemist in the rubber industry. He was a chemist and he was the actually first black chemist in the rubber industry in Akron, Ohio and what had happened with him was that he wasn't hired because they didn't have — They weren't going to have a black chemist and in fact, what he did was he was an elevator operator at Goodyear for a while leading his classmates, the ones he had helped in organic chemistry up and down the floors in order to make ends meet, he was married, he had a child, and it wasn't until 1952, the year of my birth, that they finally hired him because of his old chemistry professor at the University of Akron who lobbied and said this is insane, you've got the best chemist among your group as an elevator operator, and they hired him. He never told us this until we were much older. I must've been about 18 going to college and I asked him "why? Why didn't you ever tell us?" He said, "I didn't want you to be bitter." He said, "there's no reason for you to have that burden until you're ready to take it," and as long as I could — It was interesting because at one time they were also counseling us to be prepared that you may run up against racism but he didn't give us the example which is an overwhelming thing and so that was another little lesson I learned. He said bitterness means that they've won, whoever is trying to make you that way, so that example.