Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Career: Early Development

BOND: Now, you spoke last night and again today about seeing the university presidents, the college presidents -- and you talked last night about your mother's career exposing you to these lawyers, these really highfalutin lawyers in Atlanta. And I'm just -- it strikes me that your experiences are so different from the experiences of most black kids your age. If most black people in Atlanta ultimately worked for white people, most kids didn't see white people of that kind, of that status in life. I know it's not either historically correct to be counter-factual, but suppose your mother had operated a food store on the street, a cart or something, selling to working-class people, you would have had a different kind of exposure.

JORDAN: Maybe. I would have, but I think my aspiration would not have been any different.

BOND: Okay.

JORDAN: I think there was some advantage to working in her catering business to seeing how the other side really lived. But most black people have had that experience in one way or another because their parents worked, for the most part, in domestic situations.

BOND: Yes, but the children didn't see that.

JORDAN: They didn't see it as intimately as I saw it. But I think you can make a case that they know a little bit about it. Not too much now, but back then. But I was exposed to these great big mansions where I served canapes and was bartender. And I was exposed to the Lawyer's Club of Atlanta. So I got to see how you do things. And I must confess to you that that did have some appeal to me in much the same way that seeing Dr. [Benjamin] Mays and Dr. [Rufus Early] Clement on these campuses, because they represented something good and big and helpful.