Julian Bond

Julian Bond (1987)
Duration: 00:28:53

See other episodes with similar themes and topics

Themes: Leadership | Poverty, Progress, and the Rise of African-American Businesses and Professionals |

Guests: Julian Bond
Host : Ed Gordon
Producer : Ed Gordon, Trudy Gallant

Summary: This program, in which host Ed Gordon interviews civil rights leader and former Georgia state legislator Julian Bond, was broadcast in January 1987 on the national observance of the Martin Luther King Holiday.

Bond's appearance was timed to promote the upcoming broadcast of the landmark PBS documentary, "Eyes on the Prize," which traces the Civil Rights Movement from the murder of Emmet Till in 1956 to the march on Selma, Alabama in 1965. Bond narrates the documentary.

About a third of the program is devoted to a discussion of the documentary. Several clips from the six-hour series highlight its importance in keeping knowledge of the movement alive. But much of the program focuses on Bond's own political career and his analysis of the political circumstances facing African Americans in the late 1980s.

In some ways, Bond suggests, African Americans are in a better position than they were 25 years earlier because the discriminatory legal system that prevailed in the South at the time of the Civil Rights Movement is gone. But, he adds, the economic discrepancies between whites and blacks in America have gotten worse.

African Americans, Bond says, have to organize themselves to change that. "We've got to exercise our political potential to the fullest," he says, noting that only about half of eligible African Americans are registered to vote, but only about half of those vote regularly.

"If black people run the school system and if our kids graduate from high school and can't read or write, is that white people's fault, or is it the fault of the people who are teaching our kids, or is it somebody else's fault, or is it many people's fault?" he asks. "We need to be doing a great many things and there's no reason we can't do them."

At the time of the broadcast, Bond had just left the Georgia legislature after twenty years as a state representative and a state senator. He had run for Congress the previous fall and had lost a heated contest against at least eight other candidates, including John Lewis, who had been his friend and compatriot in the Civil Rights Movement.

Bond delivers a fascinating post-mortem on the election describing how, on a personal level, it had damaged his friendship with Lewis. He said it, however, had demonstrated that black candidates could run against each other without handing the election to a white candidate. Black candidates need "not give up anything of their essential allegiance" to the black community.

"I think it is possible for black candidates to be competitive," Bond says, "to be black and to demonstrate to white people that I will serve you too, I'll do a good job for you too."

The program is useful for the perspective it provides on the Civil Rights Movement. Just as significant, it helps illustrate the shifting political realities for African Americans in the late 1980s.

Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 7, File 9, Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute – January 18, 1993 – Show # 2412