Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Career choices

BOND: You wanted to be a high school teacher?

WILLIAMS: I did. Mr. Caldwell was inspirational to me and so I decided that anyone who could inspire me the way he did, this is the person I want to emulate and I wanted to be a high school teacher.

BOND: And so what happened to frustrate that?

WILLIAMS: Well, actually what came along was the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps was such an extraordinary opportunity in my view at that point in time that I decided that I wanted to take on that challenge and interestingly enough, my mother and Harry Simmons were the only two people in my circle of family and friends who thought that was a good idea.

BOND: Only these two?

WILLIAMS: Everybody else said this is a bad idea. You've just graduated from college. You've got a good life ahead of you. Settle down and teach high school.

BOND: So they thought this would be an interruption. Did they think it was something you would do for life and therefore not get back to your --

WILLIAMS: People didn't understand it. The Peace Corps was still a pretty new concept. It had only been in existence for about six or seven years by that time, and it just seemed strange to run off to some foreign country when you had a perfectly good job waiting for you in the Chicago Public School System, so why would you leave?