Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

International Perspective and U.S. Military Life

BOND: In many ways, something about your biography is on the one hand similar to that of many others who've come up to politics through the state assembly and then into Congress. A couple of the people we've interviewed here have been just like that — childhood or young involvement in a variety of movements. But what strikes me as different about you is that you've had from an earlier period this international focus, which is unusual for black political activists. I mean, there have been people like Carlton Goodlett and others who've had this as a concern, but it is unusual. Why do you think that attracted you, this international focus, as opposed to strictly domestic?

LEE: Well, first, my dad again was in the military. Now, while my mother and dad wanted us to stay in El Paso so we could go to the same school. We did not really travel abroad with my father, but he was always in Korea or Japan or Germany, you know, Italy, all over. So I knew about the world, but when I got married very young, my former husband joined the Air Force. And he was stationed in England. I went to England and lived for two years. And this was in the '60s, '64 to '66. When I was in England, I met many people from the West Indies, from Africa, from Europe. I traveled to Europe every summer. We'd take the car down to Dover, England, and drive over to Calais, France, and then we'd drive to every country on the continent and everywhere in every country I found Africans and West Indians, and it was just a phenomenal eye-opener for me, and that was it, I think. I mean, being part of the world as I became when I was in England probably has informed everything I've done since then and that was when I was seventeen years old.

BOND: So, it'd be fair to say you owe the U.S. military for making you into an internationalist?

LEE: Oh, yes. I owe the U.S. military for a lot of who I am.