Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Vision

BOND: Let me go back to your vision. Has your vision changed over time? I don't necessarily mean made radical shifts, but the vision you had of life and how it would work out at Antioch, let's say, has that changed?

NORTON: Oh, yeah.

BOND: Did Yale change it and did your subsequent civil rights work as a lawyer change it and how so?

NORTON: Oh, I think it changes all along. True, there is a continuum there, because I have had the great good fortune literally to be able to work in the field that most -- the civil rights field. If you look at going to law school, then working at the ACLU and at the EEOC, I have been very fortunate. And yet I think that I am far more likely to look now at some of the things I thought, and to believe -- then, now and then, to always keep from being caught in your moment in time. And I think people of our generation really have to watch out about that because your moment in time is very special. If you were a young person who came to consciousness with Brown, the sit-in movement, the only mass movement in the streets in our history in this country, that moment in time is so special for the country and for you, that it is very easy to get locked into it and therefore to judge everything by what you thought then.

Time has moved on and I have a great critique of how -- and I'm always thinking about how black people, for example, should be approaching their lives in this country. It's a whole lot different from what I thought when I was, for example, in the streets trying to get an EEOC. One of the things we marched for was we wanted a fair employment practice. Well, we got it. And should we still be focused, and I'm not suggesting that we are, on the issues that animated us thirty or forty years ago?

I, for example, am focused on an issue that it never occurred to me to be focused on when I was in the Civil Rights movement although it did not begin then. It began, I know the moment in time it began, because it was I think in the early '70s and that is on the huge deterioration of the black family where 70 percent of the children are born to never-married women with catastrophic effects on black children. And I find that extremely disturbing since the only way I think that black people made it in this society at all was through family and extended family and the church.