Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Early Experiences and Family Expectations

BOND: Now, when you were in school, in the lower grades, before you got to college, did you ever have the opportunity to exercise any leadership positions? Class president?

WILDER: Oh, yeah.

BOND: That kind of thing? How did that come about?

WILDER: Well, I ran my mouth all the time and I would get five A’s and five demerits -- if I were coming up now they’d give me Ritalin. Things like that -- but I always wanted to show that I knew, I always wanted to be up front, so I was always getting the role of the prince in the play or the king in the play or some, some lead figure who could speak. I always wanted to be up front. I always wanted to show that I knew. And sometimes I pushed a little too hard. But in the process, it made you know that you had to be ready.

I had a great aunt who would ask all of us, all of our family members to come to perform at her silver teas. So you had to recite poetry or you either had to sing a song or you either had to do something. And it enabled us to have a presence in terms of a public, to be able to be accountable for yourself. So it wasn’t anything exciting in our household. As you and your household, it was expected that you knew how to read and how to write and how to recite and how to discover the other things that went on in the world by other people, years ago, and how it relates to what you’re doing. This is why you would know who I was following, why is it important for us to know what the Greeks did? And what does Archimedes and how are those people so interested in doing things and who are we? And so it made you a little step ahead, that you had to stay ahead if you wanted to be a leader.