Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Inspired By History: Abraham Lincoln and Kit Carson

BOND: Now, our research says that you were interested at an early age in stories about Abraham Lincoln and Kit Carson.

RUSH: Yeah, sure.

BOND: What did these stories tell you?

RUSH: Well, they revealed to me that there was another kind of world that you could — you know, that the safe, secure world that's right in front of you, the neighborhood, there was something else. And I used to love those guys because, I mean, Kit Carson and them, they were mountain men. They went out and discovered things. I remember sometimes I would think, I said, "Boy, I was born at the wrong time because the whole world has been discovered." Now, little did I know that the frontier for the future rests inside of folks, not necessarily outside of folks, but I thought that everything had been discovered, man, and I was really just kind of depressed there for a moment because, you know, they had discovered the Rocky Mountains and they had discovered the Appalachians — all the things had been discovered, and so — but I was inspired by them.

I was inspired by Abraham Lincoln, because he was a reader. I think the thing that I really liked about Abraham Lincoln was reading stories about him sitting up there by the fireplace or whatever, you know, reading late at night and just could barely see, so those kind of things inspired me a lot, and little did I know that some of the images that I would see in terms of Abraham Lincoln was images of how he was dealing with black people, and you know — but Lincoln became a role model for me in my early years based — in my early years — on those kind of things, his ability to read and the fact that fought for black people.

In Chicago, the Chicago Historical Society was I guess about four or five blocks from my school. And I tell Lonnie Bunch now — you know, he used to be the head of the Chicago Historical Society. I tell Lonnie, "I'm probably the only person in the world that you know of who used to cut classes to go to the Historical Society."

BOND: Really?

RUSH: And that's because I was attracted to history and Lincoln. I remember the statue out there in the park, Lincoln Park there, of Abraham Lincoln and I used to sit there and wonder. But it was, you know, my curiosity, I really wanted to learn more about things and I wanted to be a part of something. I wanted my life to be a significant life, you know, not an insignificant life.