Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influence of civil rights activists – Bayard Rustin and Ella Baker

BOND: Let me mention some names of people and see if you can very quickly tell me who they are and what they represented to you. Bayard Rustin?

MOSES: Bayard [Rustin] actually was the person who ran the office in Harlem and so I went to the organizing meeting for the office. Now, I had met Bayard before because when I decided that I was going to be a conscientious objector, I had a Quaker professor and he thought I needed to go talk to somebody and he sent me to Bayard. I thought he was the strangest person I'd ever met, this black guy with this English accent.

BOND: From Pennsylvania.

MOSES: Right. Bayard ran that office and it was Bayard that I asked about going down south to work.

BOND: Ella Baker?

MOSES: So he sent me to Ella [Baker]. Bayard sent me to Ella. Ella, you know, the thing with Ella was her interest in you as a person. She wasn't in the office when I arrived. Jane Stembridge was there and Dora [McDonald], I think.

BOND: Dora McDonald.

MOSES: Dora McDonald, yes, was [Martin Luther] King's secretary. I spent the time talking with Jane and licking envelopes to get out this fundraising appeal and then Ella came. She was out on the road and she sat me down and we had a long conversation. Ella was really the person that I think helped to clarify this issue of the difference between, for me, being someone who was— The thing that she said which is that when asked about leadership, she wasn't so much interested in people who wanted themselves to be leaders as in people who wanted to help develop leaders so this is a real big distinction between yourself getting out and being the leader and being someone who was looking at, well, how to develop more leaders and I think that was what Ella spent her life working on.