Bond, Horace Julian

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Bond, Horace Julian

In the annals of the Civil Rights Movement, the career of the politician, activist, and educator Julian Bond holds a unique place. Bond's work on behalf of social justice spans the period from the 1960s to the early 2000s. As a college organizer in 1960, he helped found the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), arguably the most important group channel for the young people who expanded and radicalized the movement. In 1965, he became one of the first members of his generation to make the transition from activism to political office, subsequently serving for nearly two decades in Georgia state government. Through his legislation, writing, teaching, and planning for legal affairs groups, Bond is widely recognized as an intellectual leader of the contemporary Civil Rights movement.

Born on January 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee, Bond was the son of black educators. His childhood was steeped in the intellectual life of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where his father, Horace Mann Bond, served as president. The family's accomplishments—Bond was the descendant of a freed slave—did not insulate him from prejudice. While at the George School, a Quaker prep school at which he was the only black student in the 1950s, Bond was told by the headmaster not to wear his school jacket on dates with white girls. The experience scarred him yet awakened him politically. At that time he also began developing a philosophy of racial awareness and Pacifism, along with the witty, penetrating style for which he later became known.

In 1957, Bond entered Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He did not receive his bachelor of arts degree in English until 14 years later, but in the interim, he made history. Bond was inspired by the civil rights movement and particularly the philosophy of nonviolent change espoused by martin luther king jr. In 1960, Bond helped found two influential student groups. The first of these, the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights, succeeded in integrating Atlanta businesses and public places. The second group, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), grew into a national phenomenon, becoming the leading civil rights organization among young people in the mid-1960s. SNCC activities ranged from voter registration drives in the South to opposition to the Vietnam War, and Bond, in addition to joining SNCC in the field, edited its newsletter.

Dropping out of college in 1961 to become a full-time activist, Bond soon established himself as a national figure through this work and his subsequent political career. In 1965, he won election to the Georgia House of Representatives. But lawmakers voted not to seat him, ostensibly because of his anti-war activities, particularly his signing of a SNCC statement that supported men who chose not to respond to their draft summons. Bond's supporters argued that the real reason he was not seated was racism. After the legislature called a new election, Bond won again, but he was still refused office. His lawsuit claiming the right to be seated went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in December 1966 that the legislature's actions violated the First Amendment (Bond v. Floyd, 385 U.S. 116, 87 S. Ct. 339, 17 L. Ed. 2d 235). Bond took office in January 1967.

"We are a force to be reckoned with: well-educated, well-informed and strongly committed to social justice. … and we vote."
—Julian Bond

Bond's success led to his name being placed in nomination for vice president at the 1968 Democratic Convention, a first for a black man. The nomination was symbolic; he was too young to serve and so withdrew his name. In Georgia, he served as a state representative until 1974 and as a state senator from 1974 to 1987. During this period, he introduced some 60 bills aimed at helping minorities and low-income citizens; he also led a successful drive to create a new congressional district in Atlanta representing a black majority. He made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1987.

During his career, Bond has written about and taught civil rights and has served in many civil rights organizations. In 1971, he became the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal organization based in Montgomery, Alabama, devoted to ending discrimination. In the 1990s Bond served four terms on the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons (NAACP). Bond has served since 1998 as national board chairman of the NAACP.

A holder of 23 honorary degrees, Bond has taught at Drexel University, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Williams College. In 2003 he served as a distinguished professor at American University in Washington, D.C. and a professor of history at the University of Virginia.

In the early 2000s Bond continued to be a prolific writer. His articles and poems have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers including The Nation, Playboy, Ramparts, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. Bond has also continued his work as a narrator and commentator and has made appearances on television and in the movies. In 2002 he received the eugene v. debs Award for his work with social justice issues and also the prestigious National Freedom Award.

Further readings

Branch, Taylor. 1989. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954–1963. New York: Touchstone.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Available online at <www.naacp.org> (accessed June 1, 2003).

Reed, Adolph. 1999. Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era. Minneapolis, Minn.: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

Cross-references

Civil Rights Movement.