Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Race Consciousness

BOND: Do you think that you have a different style when you're addressing a black audience or a white audience? Are you a different person in either of these places?

LEWIS: Well, according to the situation, the environment -- if I'm speaking in -- let's say, a black, predominantly black audience, a church, or at a conference, I may use some different method. I may use some of my preaching style or technique. I may call upon some of my past. And if I'm speaking to an interracial audience, it may be a different style, but you sort of -- you sort of read the audience and you also get feedback from the audience. Sometimes the audience takes you along.

BOND: Yeah.

LEWIS: And I've been carried along from time to time.

BOND: I see. Now, if you talk about black leadership, is it possible that we're dividing ourselves just by calling -- "You're a black leader." What does that? What are we saying there? Does that divide you from other leadership figures? Or does it just describe you?

LEWIS: Well, I think I'm a participant in a struggle in America. I happen to be black and I cannot deny that, but I see myself as being part of the American whole addressing the needs and the problems of all Americans.

BOND: So, you -- is it fair to say you see yourself transcending race? Larger, greater than race?

LEWIS: I see myself part of an effort much larger than any ethnic group.

BOND: Do you think that because you are a black person, that you have a special responsibility to black people?

LEWIS: I think I have an obligation, and in so many situations, a special obligation, a special responsibility, to the black community. That's the community I come from. But I also have an obligation and responsibility to a much larger community.

BOND: How do you tell the difference between your responsibilities to the people you come from end -- if they end -- and the responsibilities to the larger community takes hold?

LEWIS: Well, in some instances, there's issues and questions that are peculiar to the African American community. In other instances, there're issues that I need to champion and should champion that transcend the African American community but also is good for the African American community but good for the larger society.