Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Race Realities in Tennessee

BOND: Welcome to Explorations in Black Leadership. Thank you so much for joining us.

HALL: Thank you, thanks for having me here.

BOND: Well, it's our pleasure. Let me begin with some investigation of your background. Can you tell me what significant issues in your development to date have helped shape who you are?

HALL: I think because I grew up in Memphis Tennessee, I've always been affected by racism and I've always had to come to grips with what that particular system has done to me and has affected me and still affects me to this day. You know, growing up in Memphis, you live in the shadow of Martin Luther King Jr. being assassinated there, and in Memphis there is still a huge chasm between white and black people and I would say the haves and the have-nots. So that mixture of racism and classism I would say has always affected me, and I grew up in this neighborhood called Orange Mound for the first five years of my life. And Orange Mound is like, you know, it's a [quote, unquote] "bad" part of town, predominantly African-American working class, blue collar folk. Hard working folk, but nonetheless, don't really have a lot of money. And by the time when I was five years of age my mother and my father moved us out to this suburb called Raleigh and in a way my life completely changed because I gained access to, you know, a different school -- a school that had better resources, better teachers, and I would say that move really, probably is the main reason why I'm sitting here today and have accomplished the things I have accomplished. But having moved to that particular neighborhood, we were like one of three black families that had just moved into this neighborhood, and we, the younger children, we, you know, the other neighborhood kids, there were a lot of incidents that occurred where we came up against a lot of opposition to us being there from other kids from – like -- people, like I remember one incident specifically when my sister and I, we were playing in our front yard, you know, playing hide and go seek - whatever, whatever - and these white guys in a white pickup truck, and what is this, Mississippi Burning?, but anyway, you know, they're rolling down the street and they throw – like - a glass bottle at us and scream "nigger". And I remember being so -- like, what is that, what is that anger, what is that lack of understanding, what is that ignorance that has just occurred to me, you know? And I remember my sister and I, we really didn't talk about it, and I don't even know if she remembers, you know, cause when things like that happen, you try to either, it's either emblazoned in your mind, or you try to forget it, you repress it. So I remember at a very early age coming to terms with the fact that my life is going to be different because I am of a different color.