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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 trip to Guinea broadened his perspective on African-U.S. black relations

Guinea sought self-rule during the era of African decolonization. Bond recalls the ebullience of the Guinese government and populace to establish the country's independence. Movement activists' journey to Guinea opened their eyes to a Pan-African struggle.

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

JULIAN BOND:
I had never ever seen that anywhere before. It's fairly common now. But she got her hair corn-rowed in an African village. "Wow, oo, look at that." So it was just a wonderful experience. It was my first trip to Africa, and it was a real eye opener. To go to a country that had said no to France. When France released its colonies, they gave them a choice. They could stay within the French Commonwealth like the British Commonwealth, and every colony except Guinea said, yes. Guinea said, "No. We want to be independent. We want to stand on our own." The president of Guinea would come and have dinner with us in our place. He told us that when he was a boy. He said, "I knew more about French history than I knew about the history of my own country. I knew about Charlemagne. I knew all the princes and kings of France, but I knew nothing about [Guinean] history. So we wanted to break away. And, when the French left, they took everything with them. They took the telephones. They took the telephone lines. They took the toilet paper. They took everything." So this poor country was sort of starting all over again. But it was a wonderful place. It was a great trip.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
You were guests of the government?
JULIAN BOND:
Yes, we were the guests of the government, so we were driven around and taken on tours.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
How did that make you feel about the United States because here you are guests? What effect did that have?
JULIAN BOND:
Well, the United States was hostile to Guinea because Guinea had left the French Commonwealth. Guinea was an independent nation. Guinea wasn't following the United States line. I think we felt good because we didn't think the United States line was the good line. We thought these African countries have to assert some independence. If they think something's right for them, they have to be able to say so. So, and it was exciting to see the president, whose name was Sekou Toure, who was an intelligent man and just want to think—. You grow up in this country and you get an image of Africans running around in loincloths hunting animals, cannibals, eating each other, voodoo. These are intelligent, sophisticated people, not at all what we had been taught they were. I was just a real eye opener. It was a fabulous trip. On my way back with two other guys—Bill Hansen was there, Matthew Jones was there too—we stopped off and spent a long week in Paris on the way back. It was my first time in Paris. It was exciting. Oo la la.