Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Formative Childhood Experiences

BOND: I know you played leadership roles when you were in college at our alma mater, Morehouse College, but what about in the lower grades — student government and so on?

SELLERS: I was a lot younger. When I entered high school, I was only twelve. When I completed high school, I was only sixteen. So I really didn’t find my niche and I think that’s what I try to urge older generations to do, with my generation, is to be patient with us, because a lot of times, we’re wayward teens and we’re just looking for a niche, looking for a way. And I found that a little bit later. I found that around eighteen or nineteen, so I wasn’t quite a knucklehead but I was just kind of coasting along. School came relatively easy to me, so I played basketball and did other things. I did pretty well on standardized tests, so I just pretty much tried to find myself and tried to make some type of impact on this world that we live in.

BOND: What about groups like the Boy Scouts or other groups not connected to a school or a church affiliation?

SELLERS: In poor rural South Carolina, it’s very hard to find a Boy Scout troop, in Bamberg County. We didn’t have one. I learned how to do many things. I learned how to jump ditches and play youth football and basketball at the Denmark Recreation Center. I mean, it’s a cinderblock building that my father and some other influential individuals in the community ran. We didn’t have a lot of money. We had a lunch program where they would come and deliver us our baloney sandwiches with a little fruit snack and during the mornings, we would read books and we would have some of the high school and elementary school teachers come in and work with us on our skills. In the afternoon, we had one basketball goal with a wooden backboard. And it sounds like I’m telling a story like I’m sixty-five or seventy years old, but, no, this is the present-day reality and then we would go back in the back and we had this huge ditch and I had to fall in it three or four times before I realized how to navigate when I got up in the air. So those are the type of experiences and at the end of the summer, we would go to Carowinds. And a lot of times with my friends growing up, that was the only time that’d been outside of the city of Denmark. So, it was an awesome experience and that’s kind of how I matriculated and grew up in Denmark.