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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Julian Bond, November 1 and 22, 1999. Interview R-0345. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Bond's growing activism with the civil rights movement

In this lengthy passage, Bond describes his increasing involvement with the civil rights movement. In Atlanta, Bond engaged in several grassroots tactics to entice his peers to join the movement. The formation of the "Committee on Appeal for Human Rights" frustrated Atlanta's local conservative black press who feared a loss of white economic support. Bond and other black businessmen established their own newspaper, which captured the attention of Ella Baker. Bond's heightened participation created a sense of immediacy for the movement and resulted in his dropping out of college.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Julian Bond, November 1 and 22, 1999. Interview R-0345. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ELIZABETH GRITTER:
I remember you talked in class about how you got involved with the Atlanta movement with Lonnie King. Could you please go over that?
JULIAN BOND:
Well, I was in this café one morning, and he came up to me with this newspaper that talked about the Greensboro sit-ins. He engaged me in going around the café, talking to other students, about doing the same thing in Atlanta. Our circle got larger and larger and larger and larger. Eventually, because I was the first person he spoke to—. I think because I was in from the beginning, then I gravitated toward a leadership position with this group. After a couple of days, we had a fairly large group of people and we had a series of meetings and word got out about what we were doing. We went to the president. These were Morehouse, Spelman, Clark, Morris Brown colleges, the Interdenominational Theological Center, a seminary, and Atlanta University, a graduate school. So here are four colleges, two graduate schools—six schools of 4000 students. So we made sure we had somebody from each school and picked on the student body presidents particularly because they were leadership figures and other people would follow them and formed this group and then we began the sit-ins.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
Oh yes. It was called the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights?
JULIAN BOND:
Well, we wrote this document, which was published in the daily newspapers, called "An Appeal for Human Rights." So we called ourselves, the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights because we couldn't think of a better name.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
Did you draft the majority of the—?
JULIAN BOND:
With a young woman named Hershelle Sullivan.
JULIAN BOND:
She and I pulled it together.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
What was your role on the committee?
JULIAN BOND:
I was the publicist. I was the guy who if the newspapers called, I would talk to them or reporters [who] called. If we wanted to put out a statement, I would write the statement. So I was the publicist. I was the fountain of knowledge. I was the spin-master. I was the interpreter, the interpreter of what we did. I interpreted what we did to the larger world.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
What was the Atlanta Inquirer?
JULIAN BOND:
Well, there was a daily black newspaper in Atlanta which was Republican oriented and very conservative and it was hostile to what we were doing because we were picketing an A&P store. A&P was a big advertiser with them. A&P took their ads out and they got mad. So they began to attack us. So a group of black real estate men. Atlanta has a fairly wealthy black community, a lot of black businesses. These real estate guys said to us, "We'll take our ads out of the Atlanta World for a week to teach them a lesson." While they took their ads out, white real estate companies began encroaching on their market. So they said, "Hey, this can't be." So they said, "Why don't you put together some paper to compete with the World?" So with the help of some adults, in fact with the adults doing most of the real work, we put together this newspaper called the Atlanta Inquirer Weekly. I began working for the paper. I ghost-wrote a column for Lonnie King called "Let Freedom Ring by Lonnie King." I wrote a sports column about which I knew nothing then and I know nothing now. I covered crime stories. What you would do is go down to the police station. On the front desk of the police station would be a copy of all the police reports. Policemen would write a report in triplicate. One copy goes to this sort of open file. You could go down there and just look through them until you see an interesting crime and put that interesting crime in the paper. So I did that a couple of times. If it was some spectacular trial, I would cover a trial. Then I would help put the paper together. I would design it and lay it out.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
How long did you do this?
JULIAN BOND:
I'm not sure. I guess about a year.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
Did these businessman approach the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights about forming a newspaper?
JULIAN BOND:
Yes. One of the people who put the paper out was not a businessman. He was a professor at Clark College. He was a English professor, had a kind of writing background, literary guy, and he became the editor. We knew him as a supporter of the movement and so we gravitated toward him. He became the editor. So it was just a natural fit.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
Sure. You were at the founding conference of SNCC with Ella Baker?
JULIAN BOND:
Yes.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
Were you invited as a result of—?
JULIAN BOND:
Well, the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights was invited. Ella Baker sent letters to all of these student groups that had popped up around the South inviting us to come up to Raleigh on Easter weekend 1960. We all came and met each other, got to know each other for the first time and formed this temporary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. They set up an office in Atlanta, and originally a young white woman named Jane Stembridge was the director, and she was replaced by a guy named Ed King, and he was replaced by James Forman. Forman saw my name in the files as a member of the Atlanta student group and saw that I had some writing facility, and he invited me to come down and eventually I dropped out of school. I spent so much time down there I dropped out of school and became the publicity director.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
I was wondering what you remembered of the conference and how many, and also these students, they went on to work for SNCC. But you didn't at first and why you didn't at first.
JULIAN BOND:
Well, because it was such a big step to drop out of school. The idea was that you entered and four years later you got out and got a degree and then you got a job or went to grad school or your life went on. You didn't interrupt this flow. So that was a big, big step. Your parents had invested money and so on and they were looking forward to graduation day. You didn't want to interrupt their dreams. So, it was a big step. But what happened is that I spent more and more time working for SNCC and going to school. Eventually more time working than I was going to school, and I just couldn't do both things. This seemed more immediate and something I had to do right now. I could come back and do the other later.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
Right.
JULIAN BOND:
And so I did.