Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Social Consciousness: Segregation

BOND: Now, you know there is a sociologist named Aldon Morris who has this theory that black communities in this period were a community which upheld and reinforced not only Mom and Dad, but church, school, every institution, upheld and reinforced the need to struggle against a segregation system. Not necessarily by marching and picketing and so on, but surpassing the circumstances. Was Lynchburg like that? Did Lynchburg, black Lynchburg, sort of push you?


BOND: Not just you, but other young people as well?

FUTRELL: Yes. Lynchburg was the kind of community – it was a very close-knit community, the black community was -- and when I was growing up, you have to remember I grew up in a time when there was one black dentist for the whole city. There was one doctor. I think we had a lawyer. And so the prominent people in the community were the teachers.

BOND: Yeah.

FUTRELL: And the religious people. And so when I went to Diamond Hill Baptist Church, I was going to church with the people who taught me in my school. And they were very supportive, very involved, and they didn’t let the segregation stop them. I remember one time when I was at Dunbar High School, we had asked for some improvements to the school and the city told us they couldn’t give them to us, that they couldn’t afford it. And yet, the next year, I remember very distinctly they brought this brand new wing to E.C. Glass High School. And at that time it was considered to have the state-of-the-art gym, and all these different things and classrooms, but they had told us there was no money. We didn’t have the up-to-date class books, textbooks. We didn’t have the up-to-date equipment, and that was in simple Lynchburg. When I moved to Alexandria and started teaching, Julian, I was surprised that in Alexandria, the black kids would get the textbooks that were being used by the white kids, and then after they finished, we would get them. We would get the hand-me-down equipment. I remember one year, we asked for workbooks so that our kids could have practical experiences, and we were told they couldn’t afford them. But when we went to a meeting at the white school, there they were.

And so what the community said, despite these inequities, despite this discrimination -- and we know it all exists. I remember the busses being segregated. I remember going to work with my mother to help out, and we had to go through the back door. And I remember saying, "Well, why should we go through the back door when the bus stop is closer to the front door? So now, why do I have to walk all the way around here?" And my mother would simply say, "Just go through the back door." And whenever I got a chance I’d sneak through the front door, you know and once in a while you’d get caught. But we were aware of all these things, but the parents and the community would say to us, "Don’t let those kinds of things hold you back. Life is going to change. Things are different. You can be, and you will be -- " And so they pushed us. And so that’s the way it happened.