Today’s Tribute was written by Dr. Tina Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland
“I do think that some of us began to realize that this was going to be a long struggle that was going to go on for decades, and you’d have to knuckle down. A lot of people in our generation did that. They didn’t drop out and run away.” ~ Julian Bond
Julian Bond, Civil Rights activist, politician, Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a founder and president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and one time host on “Saturday Night Live,” transitioned this past weekend. Bond was a champion for the rights of all people. He spent his life fighting for equality, education, and social justice.
Horace Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee. His father, Horace Mann Bond was an educator and president of several historic black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and his mother, Julia Agnes Bond, was a librarian at Clark Atlanta University. Julian Bond enrolled at Morehouse College in 1957 to pursue a degree in English. But, in 1960, he decided to answer the call by organizer Ella Baker to create a student-led organization to fight against segregation and disenfranchisement. Bond was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played an important role in its development and leadership.
By the mid-1960s, Bond became disillusioned with the radical direction of SNCC and left the organization. He went on to serve in the George House of Representatives and Senate. When Bond was first elected in 1966, the House refused to seat him due to his opposition to the Vietnam War. As a result, Bond’s case was heard in the US Supreme Court, where the Justices ruled in his favor. In RG 21, is the file unit Julian Bond, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., et al. v. James “Sloppy” Floyd, et al. (NAID 2618722), about the case and Bond’s defense, which argued that his First Amendment rights were violated.
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Interestingly, there’s been some criticism of a reference made in Bond’s “New York Times” obituary. The obit described Bond’s female ancestor (a great-grandmother?) as a mistress to her enslaver or slave owner, who was named Bond. As an enslaved woman she had no control over her body and was not a “mistress” but a victim of assault and rape, many argue. This characterization isn’t new and represents a perspective/view cast straight from the lens of historians who have romanticized the male enslaver/female enslaved relationship. We heard a similar outcry in response to the Patsy character in the movie “12 Years A Slave.” This new pushback (generated by a new league of historians) calls into question historic and oppressive narratives that frame slavery in ways designed to ease tension and minimize the terrors of this commercial human-bondage foreign trade and kidnapping. I once interviewed Bond during his visit to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville; I even gave him a small memento as a gift and a small thank you for just being Julian Bond – a renaissance man dedicated to freedom for all of humanity.