Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Lingering Impacts of Jim Crow

JONES: Thank God my dad wanted to become a black Yankee in 1955. I'm born in '52 and so I went K through 12 with the same kids all the time. It was an exotic idea but maybe a little bit more than that because there was a kind of an anger and a sullen hardness that sort of came over my parents' countenance when they talked about my experience of going to school and I've never understood what that was. Now, was it a kind of envy? What was it that they — Like it was something you don't know because they know, my friends from age 2, 3, 4, 5, were like little white kids. They were the kids that my parents were working for. I went to the school. I graduated there. In the '60s, I dropped out like they were dropping out or so I thought. How do you drop out if you're on welfare, but they were middle class kids and everyone was like living the counterculture but there was something my parents, in their faces about segregation, something I didn't know and they didn't have the language to tell me.

BOND: Did they ever develop the language to tell you? Did you ever find out what it was?

JONES: Oh, yes. Oh, yeah, I definitely found out what it was. That trip I expressed to you, I was outraged by it and by the same token, I couldn't understand why any of the people we went south to visit wanted to still live in the South and even to this day, I have been sort of mining very uncomfortable feelings about things I have not resolved in myself about the history of our brand of apartheid. Yeah, I found out about them but I've spent my whole life dancing in another sphere. Maybe that's what the artist life has been. It is so painful the world that I came out of that in the '60s when they said, "you are not your body," hallelujah, I'm not my body. You can be whoever you wanted to. Hallelujah, I can be and that was pretty good for a 17, 18, 19, 20-year-old.