Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Parental Values – Hard Work and Education

BOND: Before we go there, let me go back earlier to your life. What did your parents do?

WILLIAMS: My father was a lifetime worker at the post office. He became a supervisor at the post office. My mother did a lot of different things. She was a dental assistant. She was what we now would call a telecommuter. She was a secretary and worked at home, did a lot of work for large corporations in Chicago. She managed a dry cleaners. She did a lot of different things. She was a creative woman who really had a great vision about what you needed to do in the world of work.

BOND: What kind of values did they impugn to you, did they insist you adopt?

WILLIAMS: Hard work.

BOND: Was that the main one?

WILLIAMS: They expected me to work hard, although it was interesting. My mother was always worried about me having part - time jobs that would detract from my education. And so she was always very suspicious of that.

BOND: So how did she balance this conflict?

WILLIAMS: Well, that was the one source of tension between us because I wanted a part - time job to have some extra money and she wanted me to focus only on the books so we worked out a compromise. It worked out.

BOND: How did you work that out?

WILLIAMS: Well, I was determined and so was she. [laughs]