Julian Bond has been at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement in America since 1960. Bond has spent 50 years highlighting issues associated with civil rights. It would be difficult to underestimate the importance of what Bond has achieved – he helped to start the SNCC and the SPLC and the NAACP recognised Bond’s work for civil rights when in 1998 he was selected as their chairman.
Julian Bond was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on January 14th 1940. He came from a comfortable background and was educated at the private Quaker George School in Pennsylvania. His family had moved to the state when Bond was five after his father, Dr. Horace Bond, had been appointed as President of Lincoln University, the first African-American to be so honoured. In 1957, Bond continued his education at Morehouse College in Atlanta. While at Morehouse College, he was taught by Dr. Martin Luther King.
From 1960 on, Bond thoroughly involved himself in the civil rights movement. In 1960 he was a founding member of SNCC – the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee. Bond served as it communications director from 1961 to 1966. He was also at the forefront of protests against segregated public facilities in Georgia. However, Bond’s involvement in SNCC meant that he had left Morehouse in 1961. He returned to the college in 1971 to complete his degree in English and he graduated aged 31.
In November 1965, Bond was elected to Georgia’s House of Representative. However, the House refused to endorse him as he was very much associated with SNCC and they had voiced their opposition to the Vietnam War and Bond had expressed his support for SNCC. In the South this was simply seen by many as an unpatriotic thing to do. Bond had also voiced his support for those who refused the draft. A district court ruled that the House had not violated Bond’s constitutional rights. However, in 1966 the Supreme Court ruled that Bond’s freedom of speech had been violated by the refusal of the House to endorse him and they voted by 9 to 0 that he had to take his place in the House. Bond served four terms as a Democrat and served in the House from 1965 to 1975.
In 1968, Bond got into the national limelight. He attended the Democrats National Convention in Chicago that year as a Georgia Democrat. However, he was named as a potential Vice-Presidential running mate – the first African-American to be so named. It was not his intention to be named and in some senses his naming embarrassed the Democrats as they failed to take into account the Constitution that clearly states that a Vice-President had to be 35 years old or over and Bond was only 28!
Bond helped found the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) in 1971 and he worked as its president from 1971 to 1979. The SPLC gave legal advice and took up the cause of African-Americans in what for many in the South would have previously been prohibitively expensive. Such legal advice gave poor African-Americans living in the South a major fillip.
In 1975, Bond stepped down from Georgia’s House of Representatives and stood for the state’s Senate. He was elected to this and served from 1975 to 1986. In 1987, Bond attempted to get elected to the national House of Representatives. He stood for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District but lost to another civil rights leader John Lewis.
Out of politics, Bond taught at universities, including Harvard.
In 1998, Bond was appointed chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) – the oldest of America’s civil rights movements. Bond announced that he would retire from the post in 2008 but stayed to oversee the 100th anniversary of the NAACP. Bond actually remained in this post until 2010 when aged 70 he resigned and handed over the chairmanship to Roslyn Brock.
Leading up to his resignation, Bond was asked if the NAACP was still relevant in a nation with an African-American President. He answered in the affirmative, as did President Barack Obama when he addressed the NAACP at a speech to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Bond continues to campaign for civil rights within America. He lectures on this history of civil rights and is a supporter of same-sex marriages and gay rights. This has led to arguments with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Bond currently works for the American University in Washington DC and also lectures on civil rights at the University of Virginia. In recognition of the part he has played in the civil rights movement Bond has been awarded twenty-five honorary degrees and in 2002 he was presented with the prestigious National Freedom Award.