Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Early Leadership Experiences

BOND: Very quickly, in any of your school experiences leading up through Columbia, were you active in student politics, student government, have any of those kind of leadership positions?

JEALOUS: Yes, certainly. At Columbia, I ran for student council. So the first real protest that I led I had actually put — like every student council person, I put on my best Oxford and my best pair of pants and walked over with a delegation of students to convince the University Senate that they should not abolish full-need financial aid nor need-blind admissions. We found ourselves locked out. And we ended up taking fifty students and turning it into eight hundred-plus into the classrooms and climbed in through a second-story window. But prior to that, it had all been Key Club and Junior Statesmen and Model U.N. and all the things that kids who sort of yearn to be in the establishment do, to prepare themselves.

BOND: What about non-school activities like Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts?

JEALOUS: I was in the Boy Scouts for a very short period of time. I had a Scoutmaster in California who was from Alabama — and I was the only black kid in the Boy Scout troop and it felt like that was an issue, but I also frankly had a father who was from Maine and who took me on adventures in the outdoors — and, you know, bouldering and hiking trips — that were way more exciting to me than anything than that local Boy Scout chapter was doing.

BOND: It’s surprising to me to have sat here and heard so many people sit where you sit and say that the Boy Scouts were a tremendous influence on their lives.

JEALOUS: Boy Scouts are huge. I mean, I look at my father-in-law, for instance. His father — there’s two things that — three things that are said about his father. One is that he desegregated the town of Donora, Pennsylvania’s restaurants by himself with a pistol as the head of the Negro Social & Political Club. The other is he was a steelworker with a sixth grade education. And the third was that he was Scoutmaster to a whole group of Boy Scouts who went on to get Ph.D.s, to become judges, to — like my father-in-law who was a dean of the University of Pittsburgh for thirty years — you know, really sort of be pioneers in their fields. The Boy Scouts is a great institution, but unfortunately, it comes down to the Scoutmaster.

BOND: Yes, I would think so.