Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Social Consciousness: Racial Uplift

BOND: Do you feel that black leaders, yourself particularly or this whole class of people generally, have an obligation to help other black people? Is it destiny, in effect, that you are a black leader not only because you're a black person but must you direct your leadership abilities towards black people?

HOOKS: Well, you know, that's a very -- perhaps one of the most difficult questions I ever have to answer. I think we are who we are and we do what we do because we are who we are. And I cannot imagine living this life without helping other people. And, therefore, it radiates in my whole life and I fuss with people. I become a little insensitive when I see people who are doing well, who spend no time trying to reach back and help others. Now that might be -- that may be sort of motivated by my childhood experiences. When I came along, most of the black school principals who were at the epitome, the height of -- they always served on urban league, or they served with the Traveler's Aid. You know, they were in something, beyond making a living. And I think it's almost shameful. And I see so many people, it looks to me they only try to practice their profession, take care of their families and not do one earthly thing for anybody else. Yes, I'm full of the concept that we're on earth to help make it a better place. And perhaps I've spent too much of my time in it. I'm not sure. If I had devoted as much time to private business as I did to city causes, I know I'd be a multi, multi-millionaire because I've seen how money is made. But I could never do that. I've always been out there doing things for others. Now, to the extent that it pleases me, I guess I have no complaint.

And maybe I'm a little bit insensitive when I insist that other people ought to be involved. But you heard me on many speeches say that the service we render, is the rent we pay for the space we occupy on God's earth. I just happen to deeply believe that those to whom much is given, much is expected. And I happen to know that in the black community, such progress will be made, however limited it might be, has been because somebody was willing to pay that extra price. Think about Martin Luther King, Jr. When he was finishing up at the, where? Boston.

BOND: Boston.

He came to Tennessee as a candidate for the First Baptist Church in Chattanooga. An old, historic church. Big. More building than people, but it was a great church and we thought it was one of the finest. And they called a pastor by the name of Herman Battle, and they did not call Martin Luther King to pastor the church, which they may have done. Had he been called to pastor First Baptist in Chattanooga, then obviously he would not have been in Montgomery when the business started. If the man who was the Pullman porter -- I can't think of his name right now --

BOND: E.D. Nixon.

HOOKS: E.D. Nixon, had been present on the night that they selected officers for the Montgomery Improvement Association, he may have been selected president. Dedicated, well-trained but not articulate and eloquent in the sense of Martin King. I think about all the things that happened. And then Martin had turned down the presidency of the Montgomery branch of NAACP because he felt he was just getting to town and he had to, you know, become familiar with -- yet, he accepted the presidency of MI -- of the Montgomery Improvement Association. Why? Once he accepted it, he -- it pulled his whole life. I've seen him weary and tired and worn to a frazzle and still getting on the plane. I've seen you in that same condition. So it may be that there is a motivation that exists within leadership to do that. But I have a feeling, to hurry up and answer your question, that all of us have some obligation to help others as we move along.