Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Education: Law School

BOND: Now, you've talked about people who were friendly and supportive, what about people who were overtly hostile?

JONES: You know, there was some of that --

BOND: Students? Teachers?

JONES: -- but not a lot, you know why? The overt hostility was collective. Let me -- see, this is Virginia and your Virginia gentlemen --

BOND: Genteel.

JONES: Civility, you know. You may think it and you may feel it, but you dare not say it -- that's uncivil. It was not said. I mean, once in a while, I got a little something. You know, "Why did you come here?" or something, but for the most part, I -- meanwhile, they didn't know what I was going to say or do, you know. They didn't know if I bought into the code of civility, because I might have just gone off on them, you know? But when I say the collective, they -- when Martin Luther King was assassinated I was in law school. I came to school that day -- no one said a word. Not a student, not a professor, no one said one word. Nothing! And at the end of the day I went to Jimmy, who was the other black person in my class, and I said, "Jimmy," I said, "Do they know?" I said, "Do they know?"

BOND: Of course they knew.

JONES: Of course, they knew. Of course they knew. But in many of their minds, King was a rabble rouser. And they didn't say it, but their thinking was, you know, he asked for it. And so, what I mean is, it was environmental, the kind -- what I'm talking about here, and you could feel it. And well, this just lets me understand, I know where I am. I know where I am. But that's an example. But if I had to do it all over again, I would do it because Virginia -- I took a chance on Virginia by coming here. They also took a chance on me.

BOND: Sure.

JONES: They took a chance. They didn't know me. They didn't know what was going -- and I could imagine the faculty meeting in which I was admitted. I just can just imagine. I think being in the Peace Corps helped my coming to Virginia, because it made them think, "Well, she's seen something of the world." You know, because they had to break out of the cocoon, and they did it with me. And that was a conscious choice that the law school made.

BOND: And your Virginia background --

JONES: Virginia background --

BOND: -- I'm sure was an asset.

JONES: Virginia background.

BOND: And dean's list.

JONES: Yes, yes.

BOND: So, you have all the right combinations.

JONES: Right.

BOND: But it is a chance for them.

JONES: It was a chance, 'cause they didn't know -- you know, there's a certain -- there is a certain style around here. There is, and it's here today, you know. And they didn't know whether I was -- was I going to buy into that? They're giving me the Virginia stamp of approval, so to speak. Do I fit within this particular culture? So it's a risk, because they don't know that. Honor system? You know, you get all of the stereotypes about African Americans and not honoring our integrity and all that, and I'm sure they were full of them. This is our system, you know that. And I'm glad we took a chance on me because it worked. It worked.