Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influential People: Uncle Bill’s encounter with racism

BOND: What about William Henry Moses, Jr., your uncle?

MOSES: Uncle Bill? Uncle Bill, he was my father's favorite brother and really close friend and I still remember when, and it's right here in Virginia, he was teaching down at Hampton and the World's Fair was going to happen in 1939 in New York City and Uncle Bill had decided that he would enter and win the competition for the state of Virginia for its design.

BOND: He was an architect?

MOSES: He was an architect, for its pavilion, and so he went underground working and sent it out anonymous with his name but with a different address. When he won it and they put his name in the paper and apparently this was the first time the title "Mister" had gotten next to any Negro name in the paper there in Hampton and so they rescinded it.

BOND: They took it away from him?

MOSES: They took it away from him. [W.E.B.] Du Bois writes about it in The Crisis, so they took it away from him. I have a vivid memory. He and Pop, he came up to New York and they sat in my kitchen for three days—I'm a little kid—drinking and cooking, and trying to really get out of themselves the emotional impact of what had happened. I'm a little kid absorbing all of this. I'm just about five years old. As soon as the sit-ins happened, then I said I need to go see Uncle Bill.