Remembering Julian Bond (1940- 2015)
A Discussion, September, 2015


Chude Pam Parker Allen  Don Jelinek
Cathy CadeMarion Kwan
Hardy FryeEugene Turitz
Miriam GlickmanJean Wiley
Bruce Hartford 
If you were part of the Southern Freedom Movement, and are listed in the Veterans Roll Call, you are encouraged to add your comments to this discussion by emailing them to (If you add a comment, please indicate where in the transcript it should be inserted.)

Miriam: Well, I'll start with a little aside. I have a nephew, Julian, who's in his 20's. And when it was in the news that Julian Bond had died my sister mentioned to me that she had named my nephew after him. That was special to hear. Anyway, who wants to start?

Cathy: Well, I'll just say that I wrote a brief poem that's on the website, and what I'm saying is how grateful I am that I went to Mississippi for the reunion last year, and I ran into Julian. We were both delighted to see each other, and it was a very brief connection, but we were both really remembering the times that I worked in the Atlanta office, and he was working there.

And when I was at Spelman also, he was in the Atlanta office, and I was hanging out in the Atlanta office.

And I just feel so grateful that this little moment happened. It meant a lot to me. And then reading the different things that people have said have brought back more memories to me, by far. Like I had forgotten his quiet, witty humor, and I really cherish that. So I'm very grateful to everybody who has mentioned that.

And I'm also very aware — I mean, I was then, and I am now — that he came from a very privileged middle class Black background, and I came from a very privileged upper middle class white background. And we've both found ways to be of service in our lives, and that meant a lot to me to make that connection.

Bruce: Well, one of the things that struck me, I never worked directly with Julian, so I don't have any memories of him from the '60s, but in doing website work, it's clear that what comes through is his — first of all, his sense of humor.

Jean: Yes!

Bruce: He was a very funny guy, and it was a nice, friendly funny as opposed to a mean, cutting funny which some people have. I tend more towards that, I think, than the nice, friendly funny. And he was also a poet. We have a couple of his poems in the poem section. They're very short, but they show that humor. And it was interesting to me that three or four of the people who sent in tributes to Julian for the website did it as poems or included poems that they had written about their experiences with Julian.

And then working with the SNCC Legacy Project he would be at some of the meetings, and I probably got to know him better through that. And I think he wore his position very lightly, with grace. He was not, "I'm a heavy important person" type of presence. He was not, "I'm Julian Bond. I'm a political heavy," as some people do. So he was a warm and bringing in — 

Don: He was accessible.

Bruce: Accessible, yes. But also, he's the kind of person that you need more of in any group if you want to attract people into it who are not already part of the choir. In that kind of — I don't know if he ever did that kind of — I think he probably did that kind of organizing when he ran for the state legislature in Georgia in '66, whenever it was, but he wasn't doing that in the field very much. But he had that ability to bring people in as people, rather than bringing people in on the basis of ideological analysis, and stuff like that. And I think that all of the progressive movements need a lot more of those kinds of people and a lot less of the theoreticians.

So it was a big loss, and it came suddenly. It's one of those things where he wasn't longly ill. Just something happened, and my guess is they messed up in the hospital on him. That's just a guess. He was feeling sick, and he went to the hospital, and suddenly there was an operation, and he died. And I don't know if maybe there was nothing they could do, or maybe they messed up, the doctors I mean. I'm one of those suspicious, cynical types people as opposed to him, so naturally, I go there.

Marion: Can any of you mention one or two things that you think would be his legacy for you?

Hardy: Well, I don't know if it's a legacy, but my experience with Julian is linked to Carmichael — Stokely. When I was working with Mike Miller and and the Friends of SNCC newspaper here, I was also working in the SNCC office in Sacramento. We brought both of them to Sacramento, so I had to be the host for a day and a half. And the first person who came was Julian. And what struck me about Julian is that — I knew about his father and his family, because I knew a lot of Black educators in Tuskegee and places like Tuskegee and places like that, so I knew a little bit about who he was. But I had never met the son. Even though I had grown up in Tuskegee, I had never met the son or daughter of one of these people who had these famous names.

So I'm meeting this guy, and he's like {UNCLEAR} got to get him off the plane, and he was just pleasant. And so I enjoyed that, and then of course, I got to bring Carmichael. And after Black Power came out. So I had to deal with Carmichael. So I got a photo of me and Carmichael, and I have a picture of me and Carmichael. And this is in the Black Power period, so we in that small unit up there in Sacramento, I was able to — see both of them and how they articulated and expressed themselves. Julian was easy, Carmichael was much more direct, but it was also {UNCLEAR} the time. By the time Carmichael came, Black Power was deeply entrenched as a conception, no definition for the conception, as compared to Julian being just a pleasant person to talk to. And I saw a very nice presentation, and it changed my impression a lot about the Black bourgeoisie I grew up with, being on the other side of the tracks from the Black bourgeoisie.

Cathy: I want to add that I didn't know until after he died and in the memorial comments that he was an early defender of LGBT rights, early and public. That means a lot to me.

Jean: And that sounds like him, back in those days. I'm not at all surprised.

Cathy: Yeah, I just didn't know. I had no information of that.

Gene: So I was back East, in of all places Cape Cod in a little town called Wellfleet which is way out near the end of the Cape. And one of the people I knew set up to do the memorial with flowers. And about 30 people came which was kind of interesting, and they just said, "Well, did anybody here know him?" And there were — I didn't know Julian at all, and there was one guy who worked in Mississippi. He started talking about Julian and said some nice things, but then he really started going far off about all the things that happened in SNCC, which I didn't think was particularly appropriate to a lot of people who didn't know very much anyway.

So then Louise and I said, "Let's sing songs," which we did. And people put the flowers in the Bay, and I think it was very moving in the sense of feeling that connection. And we knew people who had been in the one in Boston, and I guess Bob Moses' wife set up the one in Boston, and so there were a few more people there who knew Julian.

I was always amazed that when I was involved with Friends of SNCC in those early years, I always thought of Julian as being one of the elders, you know? Much older than me. It's like people I looked up to, and he ran the information service and we depended on him in Friends of SNCC, because all that information came through him. And then to find out that he's like a year older than I am, it's very revealing. I mean, I think it's something we have to be careful of is to realize that people our own age often did have a lot of stuff to say, and we can't be — I remember back when I was in the '60s thinking how we were so down on the old left, you know, and they were old fashioned, and don't trust anybody over 30, and all this stuff. And you know, I have to understand it.

I mean, I know my grandson who's 17, and he loves to talk to me, but he also knows I'm an old guy. You know? But I have to recognize that he's not so different than I was in how he looks at the older folks either, you know? But just thinking about Julian was just — as everybody said, there was what became a very respectful presence. He gave us a lot to work with.

Hardy: See one of the things that matters to me is that even within Black communities, you could grow up on two sides of the track. And I would've never — theoretically, without SNCC — without me getting involved with SNCC, not in Mississippi and not in Alabama, and with CORE in California, Congress of Racial Equality in California in 1960, and meeting Mike Miller, and when we were sitting around in the [California State Capitol] rotunda, I would've never met — the structures would be with the situations racially and class-wise, I would've never met — Julian would not have been in a circle I would've met.

["Rotunda" above refers the CORE sit-in at the Captiol to press of fair housing legislation.]

None of these guys. Because I came from working class Black background. [My father] was a security guard at Tuskegee. He had a job. What he had was he had a job. He was a security guard, but that was — the town was split. So even though I knew who they were, could see monuments to them and walk across the Booker T. Washington Bridge and {UNCLEAR}, I was just like, hey, some weird country kid — not a country kid, because it wasn't the country, because we didn't do agriculture work, but I was in the other part of town that people didn't look at. And I would've never got to meet people like that. And when I look back now and knowing James Foreman, Julian Bond, Stokely Carmichael, I mean, Goddamn. I mean, you know? It didn't start out going that way. It started off going to the Army, and getting out of [Tuskegee].

Bruce: You know, to pick up on something that Gene said, we recently posted an oral history of Ella Baker that Kathy Emory typed up for us. It was very long. It's actually the most interesting oral history of — we have four of hers now, and it's the most political and the most focusing on SNCC and organizations. And she goes in, and she talks about James Foreman, and the role that James Foreman played in terms of bringing organization and discipline and analysis and strategy.

But I was thinking when Gene was talking that what Julian did was, in some ways, equally important for the development of SNCC. Because the Communications Department that Julian put together and that what you referred to as the information service was so light years ahead of anything that any other Civil Rights group had. There's just no comparison. SCLC got a lot of free publicity and notoriety because of King's fame and charisma, but their information office was inept and basically pathetic.

Cathy: Give an example of what he did.

Bruce: CORE — and I was in CORE — CORE people were constantly being angry, that the public at large was assuming that SNCC did things that CORE actually had done. And that was because Julian's Communication Department was so effective, and so powerful, and so competent that they just out-informationed CORE, NAACP, SCLC, all of them.

One example was if you came out here in [S.F. Bay Area] '64 and '65, most people out here assumed that the three Civil Rights workers killed in Mississippi were from SNCC. They were CORE. The Student Voice that came out with increasing frequency was read all over, far more than the CORE-lator, which was the CORE equivalent. Because [the Student Voice] articles were better written; they covered more; they had analysis. It wasn't just an organizational newsletter that said, "The St. Louis chapter did this, and this chapter did that." It was an organizing tool.

Jack Minnis' Life with Lyndon analysis was through that department. I guess he was in the Research Department, but it was piggybacked on the communications team that Julian put together. And it enormously extended SNCC's reach. In that, when people — Julian was not somebody who went out into the counties and went door to door or got arrested or something. But when the people in some place like Hattiesburg or Americus were arrested and in jail, it was the Communications Department that Julian did which let the whole world know what was happening and really affected the ability of SNCC to get people out of jail and to get things done because people were in jail. And I think that needs to be recognized as much as the organizational strengths of somebody like Jim Foreman. Jean, you know about that, right?

Jean: Hm-hmm. Yeah, I was just getting my thoughts together. But no, you're right, and I'm glad you brought that up so well. I never worked with Julian in the field. I didn't meet him until I was in his office, and he was showing me around everything, you know, the printing presses, the everything. Because I was going to fill his position while he campaigned in the neighborhoods for the [Georgia Assembly] seat which was very intense. But I do remember thinking after the end of the day, which went on and on and on, that this may be the only sane person in this organization. [Laughing] I do remember that!

And so he was showing me around, teaching me things. You know, I had never written a press release in my life. I barely knew what one was. I'd never been in a news area, or something. And let us not forget while I've still got it, the WATS line.

[The WATS line was Wide Area Telephone Service, a precursor to 800 numbers. See ]WATS Reports for more information.

That was, you know, our technology, and it was a lifesaver for sure. I wish we had it sooner.

Don: I didn't know that. What's the connection with Julian and the WATS line?

Jean: Julian was head of the Communications Department, and he and Foreman saw to it that we got a WATS line in there which I'd never heard of until they brought it up. And it seemed really impossible, because they were hugely expensive. I mean, they were expensive equipment.

Hardy: But they were a lifesaver.

Jean: And he was the one who thought of it. He was the one who got it there. I mean, it became very — 

Bruce: And his Communications Department was the one that then took those reports, these "Oh my God! They're coming! They're shooting at the house!" End of call! And would then take that information and immediately send it out all across the world. Well, all across the country and also internationally. And used that information so that a governor — so that if somebody is in jail and has been arrested, 12 hours later, the governor of that person's home state is calling saying, "Hey, you've got one of my citizens there. What's happening?" And that had an effect.

Marion: I'm sorry, I'm out of it. Can you tell me what a WATS line is?

Don: It's what 800 numbers are today.

Jean: Except it was print. It came out in print. And like a telegraph.

Bruce: Oh, wait a minute, let me explain. The WATS line allowed — all right, let me jump back. In the rural South, very few Black families had phones, as you know. And long distance calls were very expensive. And any long distance call placed from a Black home in Attala County, Mississippi, would be listened to by the sheriff and everything. The WATS line technology allowed someone to use a phone in a Black home to call directly to Atlanta or to Jackson, and the bill would go to SNCC. It wouldn't land on the Black family.

And somehow it bypassed — so it was harder for the sheriffs and the operators. And it bypassed the operator, so it was less likely to be tapped. Then at the office end, there would be somebody monitoring that phone 24/7. And their job was, when the call came in, they would type it as it came in. And then with misspellings, just total emergency typing. Those sheets at the end of each day would be then given to Julian, and people in the Communications Department. And we have a whole bunch of those original typed in sheets on the website. You can take a look at them.

Marion: So only certain homes?

Gene: No, no, anybody could call that number.

Marion: Oh, OK.

Gene: If you called the office, wherever it was, you'd always get somebody, and it wouldn't cost you, calling that number. Now there was another way. They also had a WATS line that they could call out, but it was a single payer service.

Marion: OK, so what does WATS stand for?

Bruce: Wide Area Telephone Service.

Marion: Thank you.

Gene: I think the Friends of SNCC's offices were also part of that network, and when they got the information, it went out to all these offices around the country where people then would pass it out in the community. So we were always getting WATS line stuff from the South and then putting it out through our networks here about what was happening. So it was a very immediate thing, and it did save a lot of lives.

Hardy: But it was also a way of getting instant information, because when I got arrested in Holly Springs, within less than 24 hours, I got the letter I showed — the Governor of California, they called the SNCC office in Sacramento, they called this friend of ours who worked for Governor Brown, and Governor Brown — somebody got a letter to the Governor of Mississippi, and they let me out of the jail. I got me out of jail and stuff. And I got a copy of the letter that — 

Miriam: Yeah, it's on the website.

Hardy:  — And that al came off through the communications office with SNCC. That you knew to call Holly Springs, you knew to call Atlanta.

Gene: That's right. That's what happened to me in Wiggins.

Hardy:  — people would say, "Call Atlanta, if you needed something." If you need information, call Atlanta.'

Gene: And depending on how they would deal with it, it could go to the governor, or it could go to the Justice Department, and suddenly a call would come, and we got let out of — we were being held in a little town in Mississippi because we were in an accident, and all of a sudden the sheriff released us. And so they said that the governor had called and said — the Justice Department had called the governor and said, "If these people aren't in Hattiesburg by tonight, we'll send in marshalls".

Bruce: Let me give a contrast. SCLC did not have a WATS line. I was in Hale County, and the Klan was circling. They were shooting at people. We were hiding out, and we were trying to call Atlanta, and nobody is home. The office is closed. You can't get a hold of Hosea. You can't get a hold of King. You can't get a hold of  — . Finally we get Abernathy, and this is now by midnight, and we've obviously woken him up. And we're telling him. "Oh, this is happening!" And I remember exactly what he said. He said, "Hosea is your project director." Click. [Laughing] Now that's the contrast to the WATS line.

Chude: Well, I have this very strange personal connection with Julian, although I never spoke to him personally. Which is that I grew up in the country in Pennsylvania, and our neighbors who were about a quarter of a mile down the road, her son was roommates with Julian at this Quaker school. Julian was a boarder at a private Quaker school in high school, George School. And so I always knew of Julian Bond, because Robbie was roommates with Julian Bond. And when I went to Spelman, one of the other exchange students in fact was one of Robbie's cousins who was there because of Julian Bond. It's such a funny thing.

So then in March of this year, Julian emailed me after the — Bruce was so happy to hear that somebody reads his list that he sends out every month. So he'd sent out on March 1st, "New on the Website," and included my piece about my parents. And Julian emailed me to say that he had read it, and it had brought tears to his eyes. And so I wrote him back, and I said, you know, this is a strange connection, but these parents that I wrote about that brought tears to your eyes lived across the field from Robbie's parents. And he wrote back, and he said, :Yes, I did go to George School, and I graduated in '57."

And I thought, "Isn't that interesting that he didn't acknowledge Robbie?" I have no idea what his relationship to this family was, but then I read in the memorials, and again, I don't remember who this was, that Julian made a point of saying that the people he remembers from his young years were the SNCC people and that they had completely overshadowed — I think that might have even been the word — the college and high school connections he had had.

And so I mean that's the way — and I thought, "Wow, yeah." It's like compared to knowing you [Jean], Robbie would be irrelevant. You know what I mean? But it was such a sweet little exchange and fits with how everybody else talks about him being so accessible.

The other thing is I was talking to Karen Trusty who was an exchange student at Spelman in the fall of '63 and would work in the SNCC office. She both knew about George School too, because her father had gone there. So in terms of talking about Julian as coming from one of these more prestigious Black families, saying, "Oh yeah, he went to George School." But she was laughing and saying, "He was the only one in the office who would come in at 8 in the morning, and he always wore a suit." [Laughing] She was laughing about this. But that's kind of who he was. He had that sense of — he was different from the others. I guess that's what I want to say.

Jean: Calm, with a lot of charm. Not excessive, but a lot of charm so that you were charmed. Men and women were charmed by his coolness and wittiness.

Chude: But also seriousness.

Jean: Oh, very seriously, yes.

Miriam: I have a Julian story. Two years before I joined SNCC I was traveling in the South to Civil Rights projects. It was 1961 and I was 19. In Atlanta I met Julian and his girlfriend Alice (later his wife). And he explained to me that blacks in Atlanta weren't allowed into the city's cultural events, the symphony, opera, ballet... Julian and Alice were both fairly light skinned and when they wore dark colored clothes their skin seemed even lighter. And that's how they got into these events, by passing as white. It was the only way they could get admitted. That's what I remember from the first time I met Julian.

Cathy: I wanted to ask if anybody could tell me the story of Julian and John Lewis running against each other for Congress?

Jean: I never knew any of that. I was so bothered by the fact that they were competing that I simply didn't follow it.

Miriam: I remember a slogan John used is, "Why send a showboat to Congress when you can send a tugboat to Congress?" There were some hard feelings for awhile.

Jean: Who said that? Oh, I've never heard that one.

Bruce: Yeah, I didn't follow it either, but I know it was a hard fought campaign, and there were some bad feelings that lasted a long time.

Chude: There was some ugly stuff then.

Jean: I know it was ugly, that's why I didn't even — 

Done: Wasn't the gist of it that one of them was supposed to stay out, but didn't?

Cathy: Jean, I never thought of it, but I think I probably made a decision like you did not to pay attention, because I didn't want it to be happening. That's very interesting.

Miriam: Anyone have more to add?

Chude: Well, he wasn't perfect. I was trying to decide whether or not to tell this story. One of the hardest things I think about our generation who did things is that the youngsters start to make us into being more than real people — and we're always real people.

Bruce: You're not gonna stop that, are you? [Laughing]

Chude: Right! So in '94, the first reunion of what now is called Freedom Summer in Jackson, Mississippi, on the Saturday, people who had worked in projects that were within a reasonable distance from Jackson went off to visit their projects and have events with local people. And those of us like myself who had worked in Holly Springs, which was too far away, we stayed, and that Saturday morning there was an assembly, and Julian was the facilitator, the chair, and Tom Hayden gave a talk, and then it was opened up for discussion.

And Julian was calling on people. And Julian was not calling on women. And Betita [Martinez] in particular and Jeannine Heron had their hands up, and he kept ignoring them. And finally people in the audience were saying, "Call on a woman! Call on Betita!" And so he did. And at that point, Betita's voice was kind of cracking, and she said whatever she was going to say, but there was a lot of intensity. And then he called on Jeannine, and with Jeannine it was the same way. And I'm sitting there, and I'm going like, "Oh," because both women sounded semi-hysterical. And I'm like, "Oh." And I came home, and I was pondering over this, because this is the way it was in the '60s. You always heard that women were hysterical. Well, I'd sat there and watched these women going crazy, so by the time they were called on, they were a little hysterical because they'd been ignored. Hello?

Jean: Where were they again?

Chude: This is at the '94 reunion of Freedom Summer in Jackson. So then I had to ask myself the question why I was sitting there. I mean, I led a walkout once because people were not being respectful. I mean, why was I sitting there? And this friend of mine said that when you go to a reunion, you first go back to who you were then, and then you begin to come up in age.

Well, I was a little 20-year-old, so back then, I would've been watching. These were the older folks. Both Betita and Jeannine and Julian are all the "older folks," and I would've been just watching them. And I think that's true. I mean, I think that's true. It would never have dawned on me at that point to stand up. Because what I'm capable of doing is just standing up and saying, "Stop!" I have done that.

Bruce: You surely are! [Laughing]

Chude: And to just say it. I mean rather than even like, "Call on a woman!" Not even asking him but telling him, "That's over. You're not going to call on any more men for awhile." You know?

And so I have to say that I think we all went back, and it was interesting seeing that moment when Julian was not seeing these women raising their hands, and the women themselves were getting more and more upset, and the only difference was that there really were people in the audience that started to say, "Call on a woman, call on Betita." But I've always thought that what I can say about it is I came home, and I was pissed off at Julian.

But everything subsequently that I've ever heard about him or seen or anything was that this was a very kind, good person. And I just think it was one of those moments that we all went back in history to the way it was, and in '64, in a large meeting, it would not have seemed odd to have overlooked women for awhile, and for them to finally be upset by the time, or if they ever got called on.

Cathy: To overlook Fannie Lou Hamer?

Chude: Well, she was not — 

Jean: Well, there surely had to have been a time when she was, before people — 

Cathy: And Annie Devine?

Chude: In a large kind of thing like this, I think that as they became known, Miss Baker would have been, but I think we can see just by looking at who got to speak at the March on Washington in '63 that obviously women were not — at that point, good, strong leader women were not really seen as part of the — 

Bruce: Even though women before the March raised that very issue and made demands and called them on it, they still didn't get any women on the speaker's platform except by accident. And I would bet that it would be a time in Mississippi when Mrs. Hamer would be called on to sing, but not to strategize.

Hardy: I think you've got to put this thing in a little context here. I mean, I think {UNCLEAR} was another subject that we could write about women who were the leaders, who were a strong part of leadership, because remember, a lot of the men that we worked with in rural Holly Springs and around that area would not {UNCLEAR}. Now, the chance for that to stabilize maybe in the future, I don't know, but certainly, some sort I read over the years about the role of women, I think ignores some of SNCC's attempts to deal with the question. But I'm not going to defend it; I'm just saying who we worked with, and my experience was limited to Holly Springs, it ain't that way. Because we didn't have that many. We had people who were there, but the real people who were strong were Ms. Hopkins and people like that.

Jean: Which had to have come as no surprise. I mean, that happens in rural as well as northern Black communities. A lot of times the head of the community is a woman, a Black woman.

Hardy: But the funny thing with all of this stuff is the woman who babysat me was a leader, and I didn't know she was in Mississippi. Victoria Gray was my aunt, who babysat me.

She was my mother's sister's daughter. And when she went to Tuskegee to go to college, I was a baby, and she lived with us. I didn't know she was there [in Mississippi] until one day I was standing somewhere, and I said, "Yeah, I told my mother I'm here," because I didn't tell my mother I was in Mississippi. [Laughing] I told her I was in Los Angeles, when I was down in Holly Springs. [Laughing]

Bruce: Yeah, there are a lot of stories like that. [Laughing]


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