Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Mentors: Huey Newton and Harold Washington

BOND: Now, in addition to people like Fred Hampton and Stokely Carmichael and Bob Brown, there'd been other figures in your life that you've associated with and who played kind of a mentor role. I think of Huey Newton.

RUSH: Sure.

BOND: What was the relationship with Huey?

RUSH: Well, Huey — I'll tell you, Huey — again, it goes back to, I guess you would call it academic leanings or intellectual leanings or my yearn to learn. And Huey, I was so impressed with Huey, because Huey was really a street person, but he was also a real intellectual. I mean, here he ultimately got his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago [sic, California] at Santa Clara [sic, Santa Cruz], a Ph.D. in philosophy, but Huey was always driving us to read different kinds of, really, some extraordinary books and think a certain way. And because we believed in theory and practice, so we had to have that theory down pat, you know, just as well as you had the practice down pat. And so I view Huey as being an inspiration primarily because of his intellectual drive.

I mean, Huey had us reading Immanuel Kant. He had us reading Kierkegaard. He had us reading Nietzsche. He had us reading, you know, of course, Mao and Stalin and Trotsky and, I mean, but Huey had us reading — I mean, he had us getting into a lot of dialectical materialism, and so we weren't just a bunch of empty guns out there. He had us really studying theory and things like that, and I remember I was most impressed with Huey in this instance. I remember back in, I believe it was '71 or '72, I accompanied him, along with a couple of other Panthers, to Yale University. And Huey was had a colloquy with — oh, he was a person who — he was with — oh, it was a philosopher. He was a childhood — he was a philosopher of development. What — ? Okay, his name will come back to me, but Huey had a colloquy with this guy, and it was just amazing, seeing him in discussions with this guy who was a preeminent philosopher and a follower of Freud. Oh man, I just — I can't remember his name, but anyway, I was so impressed with Huey because of — it was just amazing to see this young man, who was a street guy, with a philosopher, having those kind of discussions with him.

BOND: Now, later you become aligned with Harold Washington.

RUSH: Harold Washington.

BOND: What was it about Harold Washington that attracted you and what did, if anything, what did you learn from Harold Washington?

RUSH: Same thing. I mean, you're asking these questions and for the most part, it's the same thing. It's having your game together in terms of your thought processes, your philosophy, your study, you know, being smart and also putting that into practice. Harold Washington was a person who also loved to read. Okay. He was, as you know, very, very articulate, but he also was — Harold has a commonness. He was able to get —

BOND: Yes. A common touch.

RUSH: Yeah, had a common touch and so that was the same thing. That's the same thing that attracted me to Huey, that attracted me to Harold, and attracted me to Fred and to others, and attracted me to you, too. Yes, absolutely, yes.

BOND: Thank you. I went to a party last night for Heather Booth, and people talked a great deal about if Harold had been there, he would've said, "Heather is the most loquacious, stupendous," and used a series of big words.

RUSH: Oh yes, oh yes, absolutely.

BOND: And people said, "And you would've understood what he meant, too."

RUSH: Yes, absolutely. Well, sometimes you didn't understand. Sometimes he would drive you to a dictionary.