Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Formative Experiences: School and Community

BOND: Now, besides education, religion, what else in your world or the larger society pushed and pulled on you? And let me jump back to schools very quickly. Did you — were you active in student government of any kind? Class president? That kind of thing?

IFILL: We were kind of nerdy kids, so we weren’t allowed to go out much so we had to have our fun in school, so, yeah, we were involved in Student Senate, Student Forum, student government. We sang in the college choirs, in the church choirs, and part of that was because of the way that our family was structured in which, you know, my brothers were instructed never to leave me at school. We had to come home together and go to school together. So if my brother was involved in student government, so was I. If one of us was in the choir, so was the other. Not sports so much or those kinds of social activities, but activities which really —

Our fun place to go on the weekends as kids was the library. I wanted to be a librarian for a while, just because I loved the idea of being surrounded by books and knowledge and anybody would let me have a book and read it. That’s not something a whole lot of young people who now have interactive little PSDs to play with or whatever they’re called, but for us, that was an escape. That was a great place and it was a place our parents felt safe letting us go.

BOND: Doesn’t sound like nerds. Sounds like great kids.

IFILL: Yeah, well, I think we turned out okay.