Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Early Development

BOND: Both more "we" oriented, but also even as a young girl, willing to take a chance, to integrate the community center, those are signs of leadership. Now, did you think of yourself as a leader when you were doing that, when you were integrating the reading program?

HEIGHT: I didn't think of it as a leader, although I found myself, usually in any group I was always given some special responsibility. But I did think in this way, that we as a group, our little Harlem group, we saw ourselves as sort of having responsibility, and we delegated to each other tasks that they were to work on. I worked on domestic workers; someone else worked on opening up the clinics. Because even in Harlem Hospital we didn't have the things that we needed. So I didn't think of it as "the leader"; it was more like I was given leadership.

BOND: But, nonetheless, you were clearly a leader at an early age and have continued on since then. Can you examine how this impulse to lead--where did this come from? Is it your mother's example, the example of others?

HEIGHT: I think it was my mother's example, my father's example. My father, in addition to being a building contractor and the like, also was the superintendent of the Sunday school and things like that. He and I were always there on time, if no one else. He was what I would say more the manager kind of person who kept stressing "Be on time," you know, "Get yourself properly dressed, do the right thing," etc., etc. But it was my mother who always helped me to relate to needs in a community and to people.