Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influence of Travel

BOND: Let me take you to Germany. You said off camera that you spoke German. How'd you come to speak German?

LEFTWICH: Well, that's taking — I think I mentioned earlier making an opportunity.

BOND: Your mother talked French.

LEFTWICH: Yeah. My mother didn't speak German. I speak a little French. I don't read or write it, but I learned it from my mother. No, my mother was the reason I applied for a Fulbright. You know, these things just don't happen out of the blue. My mother said, "I've been looking, thinking about your graduate education. Have you thought about going abroad?" I said, "Well, yes, I've thought about it. How do you think we're going to do that?" She said "Well, there's a Fulbright Fellowship. There's no reason you shouldn't have a Fulbright Fellowship and you're eligible." But she said, "You know, it's my assessment that to the extent the country you choose is a non-traditional choice, to that extent, are your chances of winning better."

BOND: So if you had, say, chosen to go to England?

LEFTWICH: I would — I don't think I would have won anything. Or France. But I didn't really want to go to France. I said, "How about Germany?" She said, "Well, why do you choose Germany?" I said, "Well, Dr. [Helen Gray] Edmonds speaks German." I had studied Latin, four years of Latin in high school. So when I got to college I had to choose a different language. I wasn't taking Latin. And I found out somehow that Dr. Edmonds spoke German. I took German for, you know, to meet the college requirements. So I had fundamental German grammar. And then the head of the German department [Dr. Raleigh Morgan] was also sort of faculty member who was around a lot. I contacted him, and I said, "If I were to apply for a Fulbright for Germany, how would I learn German well enough that I could win?" He said, "I would tutor you." So that was that — the die was cast. I —

BOND: That's amazing to me, in first place that they taught German at all.

LEFTWICH: Not only that they taught German but two of the professors, the Manasses, were German. Mrs. [Marianne] Manasse also taught German and Dr. [Ernest M.] Manasse taught philosophy - ethics and logic. They were on the faculty.

BOND: Were these refugees?

LEFTWICH: Well, yeah. I'm presuming they were. I didn't —

BOND: The reason I ask, very quickly, is because this population of Jewish immigrants, refugees from Nazism, who just populated these black college campuses, their credentials destroyed, they could't get jobs they were qualified for at white schools?

LEFTWICH: — at white schools. And they —

BOND: And they — anyway, let's go on.

LEFTWICH: No. And they both had Ph.D.s in the European system. There were some several on campus who were refugees. So there were all these people, I took ethics from Dr. Manasse. So I knew people who knew German, which meant that I didn't feel I was speaking Russian or something. And I applied for the Fulbright to Germany. I studied up on German. And I took more German. And then when I was notified that I had won, I went into overdrive with daily lessons in German. So that by the time I was ready to sail — and we sailed in those days, we did not fly — I was comfortable in German, and German was taught on the ship because all the Fulbrights to Germany went on the same ship. We all landed at Hamburg and then we spread out where we were going to.

BOND: What did the others say when they saw you?

LEFTWICH: They thought I was strange because there were only two blacks on the whole boat [and I was the only black woman]. And there were some — it was funny — there were some Indian soldiers on the boat. I don't know what they were doing on there. But they [the crew and many Fulbrighters] kept trying to make me one of the Indian soldiers. The Indians also tried to adopt me. I have pictures with these Indian soldiers. But no, it was really strange to them that I was going to Germany. Fortunately, the woman I spoke of from — who had been born in Vienna [Inge Breitner Powell], and Werner [Dannhauser], who is a scholar who had been born in southern Germany, and Marvin [Tartak], who was a musician with whom I had simpatico because I was also a musician, and Marion Magid, who was from New York. New York Jew, actress. The three of them, not including Marvin, had sort of been friends for life — Marion [Magid], Inge [Powell] and Werner [Dannhauser]. Marvin was just a wonderful person, so he became a friend. For — in some way I became very much involved with them in part because I could speak some German.

Inge said to me, "Scruggs, you're not going to make it if you're not bi-lingual. Don't speak any more English." So we became a team. And I went to — all the eight days on the boat we had German classes. Then when I got to Bonn where I was supposed to go to school I transferred to Berlin because they were all going to Berlin and they said "Scruggs, you don't want to go to Bonn. It's boring. Come and go to Berlin." And so I transferred to the Free University at Berlin and the Institute of Political Science which is officially called the Die Hoch Schule fur Politik [or the "Institute for Political Science / Institut fur Politike Wissenschaft]. We were — we were all political scientists except for Marion who was — well, Marion and Marvin. They were arts people. But Werner, Inge and I were political scientists. So it [transferring to the University at Berlin] turned out to be a wonderful selection and a wonderful choice.