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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 campaign tactics as a state legislative candidate and the barriers that prevented him from fulfilling his term

Bond's successful bid for the Georgia legislature embodied the same grassroots tactics used by SNCC organizers. In fact, the support of his SNCC peers assisted with the dissemination of his political platform. Despite his legislative victory, the Georgia legislature refused to seat him due to his anti-war stance. After three successful campaigns and a Supreme Court case, Bond was finally able to fulfill his term as a Georgia legislator in 1966.

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:
Right. I'm also curious after the whole to-do with the Supreme Court refusing to seat you, how you were treated. You talked a little bit about it but—
JULIAN BOND:
Initially, I was treated as an invisible man. Other legislators would talk to the fellow who sat next to me and ask them how I was doing. He would say, "Julian's doing fine." But eventually they treated me like a vote. I was a vote like everybody in that room was a vote. You could get my vote or you couldn't get my vote. But you had to talk to me to get my vote. You had to argue, make some argument with me. So eventually I began to be treated like everybody else. But it took about a year and a half.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
When did you first decide to run for, what were the circumstances surrounding your decision to run for the legislature?
JULIAN BOND:
The federal courts had reapportioned the legislature creating these brand new seats with no incumbent, open seats. In an adjacent seat, a fellow I knew was running. He said, "Why don't you run?" I had never in [my] life thought about this before. First, because it wasn't possible to do before this court decision. But I thought to myself, "He's doing it. He and I are the same age and have had the same experiences. If he can do it, I can do it." So I did it.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
And you went door-to-door campaigning?
JULIAN BOND:
Door-to-door campaigning, had little parties. We would get a case of Coke and give it to someone, and they'd invite their neighbors over. Invite their neighbors from a block around over, and I'd make a speech. Then I'd say, "If I do get elected, what is it you want me to do?" They would say. Then I would make that into my platform. The more and more of these parties that we had, the more refined the platform became. So I could honestly say that I was a people's candidate. I was running on a platform that the people had helped to write. Then I had a lot of help from SNCC people who would come into town. Atlanta was like a rest of recreation place for SNCC people. They'd come in from the field and spend a weekend or a couple of days and take it easy, relaxing. They would go out, and see these people were superior organizers because that's what they had done. They knew how to talk to people; they knew how to move among people; they knew how to interest people. So I had a campaign staff who I didn't have to pay of friends who just did an enormous amount of work for me. Plus we had our own printing press. So I could print my own campaign material. I had to raise money to print posters. We couldn't print posters. But I printed thousands of leaflets and flyers and passed them out.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
What were the reactions from people? Do remember any people in particular you met on the campaign trail?
JULIAN BOND:
Well, they had never seen a politician before. They were surprised that someone was asking them to vote for them. They had voted before. In Atlanta, black people had been voting for years. They had voted before. Voting was not new. But this kind of face-to-face campaigning was new. They were excited about it; they were entranced about it. No one had ever done this before.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
Did you ever envision that they would vote not to seat you?
JULIAN BOND:
No, no. I had no idea.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
What was your reaction when you heard that?
JULIAN BOND:
It was like a slap in the face because I had run for the office. I had won the election. I had defeated the other candidates. I had done everything you had to do. I was old enough. I had met every qualification. I could not imagine that somebody could say that the people who voted for me made a mistake. It was just beyond my imagination. But of course, they did.
ELIZABETH GRITTER:
What did you do in the meantime between getting elected and being refused the seat?
JULIAN BOND:
Well I won the election. They threw me out, called a new election. I ran in that election. I won that election. They threw me out again. Then another election was set for November of that year. So I spent a lot of time campaigning. I ran three elections in a year and a half.