Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Style

BOND: Before that back at the College Fund, now you find yourself in a world where you are meeting CEOs, you -- fund raising is the main responsibility of this job -- and that's something new and different and it's different than the VEP where the funds come almost exclusively from foundations. These are corporate CEOs, that kind of thing. How do you make this transition from going to New York to the Ford Foundation, for example, and then going to see someone like one of the Rockefellers?

JORDAN: Well, in both instances you're marketing, and in both instances I had a good product -- the United Negro College Fund, forty colleges, forty black kids. And at the Urban League I was marketing services, history, advocacy in a hundred and eighteen cities, local Urban Leagues, a research arm in Washington, a Washington office. I'd spent a good bit of time working with legislators on the Hill. And I was marketing a historic civil rights organization founded in 1910 that had a successful record of helping blacks make the adjustment from rural life to urban life. I had the legitimacy of succeeding this great man, Whitney Young, which helped me. And so, going to raise money and to get support for the Urban League was a continuation of what I'd been doing at the College Fund. The College Fund was easy as hell because education is like apple pie in America, it's -- the Urban League was a little bit harder because it was advocacy, and I took positions in public forums. I disagreed with presidents, I disagreed with legislators. But I believed that honesty and integrity in that process were absolutely necessary. And I dealt with people with whom I had serious disagreements about policy, affirmative action -- the Humphrey-Hawkins Bill, for example. But I was able to convince them that it was in their enlightened self-interests to be supportive of Urban League programs.

BOND: And to what degree are previous lessons learned -- NAACP, VEP -- applicable at the College Fund and the Urban League?

JORDAN: The fundamental lesson is that you're dealing with people, and that you must understand who you're dealing with, you must have something to say, and you have to believe in it.

BOND: Now you mentioned a moment ago that you'd been critical of Presidents in this job and there's a time in '77 when you're really critical of president Jimmy Carter who's elected with black votes, a great favorite of black Americans, a great picture of you in the book of you and Carter -- act like you're not in the same room even though you're sitting side by side. Had to take some kind of courage to do that.

JORDAN: It was very, Jimmy Carter was a good man and he was my friend. And it was my judgment that he had forgotten who helped bring him to that position. And that only somebody close to him, somebody who really understood him, could call it to his attention. And he did not understand, I don't think, that it was not enough for me to tell him in the Oval Office that the Urban League is as the presidency is, a bully pulpit and that he was coming the next day and he had to really understand the sense of rage and anger, as well as hopes and aspirations of black people. And in my job as a constituent leader as head of the Urban League, I had to express it. It had nothing to do with our friendship, and it didn't mean that our friendship would come to an end, and it did not. It did mean that I had to put on my advocacy hat as head of the Urban League and say what I believed.