Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influence of Community

BOND: Now, in all these schools, from E. A. Ware forward, obviously teachers touched you in some way or the other. But what did this environment mean to you? It strikes me that E. A. Ware, David T. Howard High School were very different places then than they may be now. Can you talk about differences if you see it the same way?

JORDAN: Well, first of all, if you -- when I was in the Atlanta public school system, the per pupil expenditure for black students was disproportionate to what it was for white students. We used old books handed down from white schools. We -- our teachers, though equally educated, were paid less. And so in every way, in terms of equipment and in terms of compensation, things were not equal. But what I believe was equal was the commitment of these teachers and these principals and these counselors to us as young people to teach us, to prepare us for world -- and this was a totally segregated world. And you did not come in contact with white people until you went downtown because there was a self-containment about segregation, about the black community. And in that context, I was a happy kid. I went to camp, I went to the YMCA, I went to day camp. We played football. We played basketball. We had our fights. It was a community. It also was greatly beneficial to me to live in the first public housing project in Atlanta, in this country for black people actually, which was adjacent to the Atlanta University Center Complex. I lived right across the street from Spelman College, Clark College. Two blocks from Morehouse College, two blocks from Atlanta University, five blocks from Morris Brown College. And as a small kid growing up, going to the movies and to piano lessons, the walking through these campuses and seeing these big buildings and seeing professors -- and Dr. [Benjamin] Mays and President [Rufus Early] Clement and President of Clark College, Dr. [James P.] Brawley -- it was a source of inspiration. I knew that something good was going on in these buildings. And I would watch the homecoming parades and go to the athletic field and watch the track meets. That atmosphere, certainly for me, was a huge source of inspiration. The manager of University Homes was Alonzo Moron who was a Harvard Law graduate. He was from the West Indies. He ended up as president of Hampton Institute. And Mr. Moron was a -- he lived in the housing project, too, though he was the manager. And he walked with authority. He wore a shirt and tie, and he was -- he was a leader. And I saw that, and it was an example of what -- tif I wanted to be something or what I wanted to be, if I did what I needed to do, if I listened to these teachers and I listened to these counselors and if I followed my parent's guidance.