Julian Bond to be honored with endowment at University of Virginia

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A guest column by Ginger McCarthy

The University of Virginia announced on Sunday that there is to be an endowment of a permanent position in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences of the H. Julian Bond Professorship of Civil Rights and Social Justice, to honor the legendary contribution made by the late University of Virginia Professor of History who died Saturday in Fort Walton Beach, Florida at the age of 75, following a brief illness.

In April of 2008. the Library of Congress honored Julian Bond as “A Living Legend.” A few months earlier, at a Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration at the Black Community Services Center at Stanford University, in an event hosted by Judge LaDoris H. Cordell, Professor Bond engaged in a lengthy conversation about his life, his academic odyssey, and his legacy.

Julian Bond came to the University of Virginia’s Corcoran Department of History nearly 23 years ago, in 1992, Prior to that he had taught courses in The History of the Civil Rights Movement as a Visiting Professor at Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania in 1988 and 1999; and in the Department of African-American Studies at Harvard University in 1989 and 1991, returning to Harvard to teach the National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar from 1996 – 2001. He also served as the Arnold Bernhard Visiting Professor of Political Science, at Williams College, in 1992.

Based in the University’s College of Arts & Sciences, the holder of the H. Julian Bond Professorship of Civil Rights and Social Justice will create a powerful synergy among the many faculty and students on Grounds who are working to shed new light on the civil rights movement and the African-American experience. The chairholder will be able to draw on these existing strengths.

While at the University of Virginia, Julian Bond collaborated with Phyllis Leffler — now retired — to co-direct the “Explorations in Black Leadership,” a 15-year oral history project, which began in 2000 at UVa’s Institute for Public History, which culminated in the book “Black Leaders on Leadership: Conversations with Julian Bond,” published by Palgrave Macmillan. The University of Virginia now hosts a companion website that includes the the full video interviews which Bond engaged in with 50 of his subjects, as well as an extensive interview with Professor Bond conducted by Professor Leffler, who recalls his great contributions to the University and the world at-large:

“Julian Bond was a principled voice for justice in the world – and for him, justice was an inclusive concept. A lifelong fighter for civil rights, he worked tirelessly and generously. …

More than anything else, I shall remember him as humble and kind – a model of leadership for the world.”

Some stellar examples of the Explorations in Black Leadership Series are Bond’s interview with longtime journalist, Gwen Ifill, the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and the co-anchor and co-managing editor, with Judy Woodruff, of the PBS NewsHour. Others include the civil rights leader and activist Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women for four decades and recipient of both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal; Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas; and civil rights activist and Professor Emeritus at the University of California-Santa Cruz, Angela Davis.

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, in January of 1940, to Julia Washington Bond and Horace Mann Bond. A grandson of slaves, Julian’s father was a historian and administrator who went on to serve as President of Lincoln University, having earned a master’s and doctorate from University of Chicago. Both of Julian’s mother’s parents were graduates of Fisk University, and Julia Bond herself, was a former librarian at Clark Atlanta University. Both parents were strong supporters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and Julian Bond himself was selected as chairman of the NAACP in 1998 and served in that active leadership position until 2009, the year that the organization celebrated its 100th anniversary. Julian Bond was regarded as the NAACP’s Chairman Emeritus until his death.

Julian Bond’s grandfather — James Bond — was a graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio and followed a vocation as a minister in Congregational Churches throughout the South. One of three children, Julian recalls his youth on the college campus where his father was President, and frequently hosting scholars and activists there, such as Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois and the brilliant singer, actor and civil rights activist, Paul Robeson. Professor Bond mentions a photograph in which these two individuals are pictured with him, on the occasion of their having “consecrated” him to the field of scholarship; and he has indeed fulfilled that expectation, having taught for 45 years or so and having written — or co-written — many bookspapers, and other publications.

Julian Bond graduated from a private Quaker boarding and day school — the George School — in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, an institution which is now co-educational and still going strong. clearly annunciating, at its website, its mission and its characteristics:

“At George School, we believe the world can be better and society can be different. We think that the rat race isn’t the only means and majority rule (with minority suffering) isn’t the only method.”

As a student at Moorehouse College in 1960, Bond helped to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and was its communications director from 1961 to 1966, when he took a sabbatical to organize voter registration in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas, and led non-violent student protests opposing segregation in public facilities, in Georgia, and elsewhere in the South.

Elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965 as a Democrat, Julian Bond was one of 11 African-Americans who was actually electable for the first time since reconstruction, once voter registration of an African-American constituency was possible, following the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, under the leadership of both Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. From 1967 to 1975, Bond served a total of four terms in the House, effectively organizing there, the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus.

On completing his Bachelor of Arts degree in English, in 1971, Bond helped found the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), with chief counsel, Morris Dees and Joseph J. Levin, Jr., the public-interest law firm located in Montgomery, Alabama that is wholly dedicated to oppose discrimination through taking legal actions for redress. Julian Bond served as its President from 1971 to 1979, and was an Emeritus member of its Board of Directors at the time of his death.

“The University is where I’ve spent the bulk of my academic career and where scholarship of the Civil Rights Era is valued.”

— Julian Bond

The Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American & African Studies, at the University of Virginia, which will shortly be celebrating its third decade, is a leading center of research and teaching for the African diaspora, both here in the United States and holding collections and making assistance in research possible throughout the world.

The UVa Law School’s Center for the Study of Race and Law provides opportunities for students, scholars, practitioners, and community members to examine and exchange ideas in the field. The center’s activities include courses, public lectures, scholarly workshops, symposia, and informal discussions. …

In 2008, the University of Virginia Library acquired Julian Bond’s personal papers. The collection holds 47,000 items, including photographs, recordings and drafts of more than 300 speeches.

For additional information about the H. Julian Bond Professorship of Civil Rights & Social Justice, to advance the teaching of Civil Rights History at the University of Virginia. in making an individual contribution to personally support this endeavor, folks are welcome to visit the page dedicated for this purpose, at the UVa website.


Ginger McCarty reports information of public interest relating to the University of Virginia, the International Center for Jefferson Studies, the Library at Monticello,the Library of Congress and the Library of Virginia. She is a volunteer programmer for the listener-supported community radio station at the University of Virginia — 91.1 FM, and on wtju.net — where she co-host’s for the international music program, ‘World Turning.’ You may Contact Ginger at: www.gingermccarthy.com or @gingermccarthy on Twitter

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