Editor’s Note: We’re reposting this episode of “Scheer Intelligence,” which originally aired on February 28, 2020, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests taking place across the nation.
Though not a household name like his peers Martin Luther King, Jr., or John Lewis, Julian Bond was a legendary civil rights leader who co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). These two organizations have played crucial roles in black history, as Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer notes in the latest installment of his podcast “Scheer Intelligence.”
Speaking with Michael G. Long, the editor of Bond’s collected essays “Race Man: Selected Works,” and Pamela Horowitz, an SPLC attorney and the black leader’s widow, Scheer discusses Bond’s long career and how, at crucial moments, he staked radical positions that moved other civil rights leaders left. The three discuss how most notably, it was partly SNCC’s position on the Vietnam War that encouraged MLK to take a strong anti-war stance.
“There had been anti-war sentiment bubbling up in SNCC,” recalls Horowitz, “and then at a voting rights demonstration and Tuskegee, a SNCC person named Sammy Young, who had been in the Navy and lost a kidney—so he had to go to the bathroom more often than most people—and he went to use, he used a whites-only bathroom at a gas station in Tuskegee, and the gas station owner shot him in the back and killed him.
“That was the impetus for SNCC to issue its anti-war statement,” she continues, “which was very strong, and criticized the United States for its treatment of black people around the world, but including the United States of America.”
“Martin Luther King, Jr. did say he got a lot of his inspiration, and he was kept in check by these young people in SNCC,” says the Truthdig editor in chief. “[Bond and John Lewis] were the first ones to connect the Civil Rights Movement with, as you said, other movements, but particularly the anti-war movement, which was developing strongly.
“It had to do with the military budget taking resources, it had to do with the hypocrisy of going to supposedly fight for the freedom of people in another country when you’re not free in Georgia or anywhere else.”
Bond’s strong anti-war stance partly led to the Georgia state House of Representatives attempting to deny him the seat he won in 1965, a controversy which culminated in the Supreme Court case, Bond v. Floyd. In 1966, the highest court in the land unanimously ruled that the Georgia House had denied the civil rights leader his first amendment rights and were obliged to allow him to take his seat, a position he held for four terms. But it wasn’t just the Vietnam War that Bond came out strongly against. In a discussion about the title of the book, Long explains that while Bond was a “race man,” someone who fought for his community over his own self-interests, above all, to both Long and historian Doug Brinkley, who wrote the afterword to the book, he was much more than that.
“Bond was a race man, and that’s why the book is titled that way,” Long asserts. “And yet this was a man who advanced the Civil Rights Movement, in my mind, more than anybody else. This is a man who connected the Civil Rights Movement to women’s rights, to LGBTQ+ rights, to human rights, in ways that other civil rights leaders just didn’t do.
“So yeah, he was a race man to his core,” the editor concludes, “but he was also a lot more than that, too—he was a human rights man.”
Crucially, Bond was also among the few politicians to emerge from the civil rights era who understood the role economic policies played in oppressing people of color.
“[Bond, who was himself in politics, said politics is] ‘the art of seeing who gets how much of what from whom,’” Scheer notes. “And he had a very strong sense of obligation to not just the elite in the black community, which Atlanta had, but more so, he had a real sense of ‘how is this playing out in the poorest neighborhoods.’
“I think that is a very important part of his legacy,” says the Truthdig editor in Chief. “[Bond’s message] is what Martin Luther King was saying at the end of his life, before he was assassinated: If we fail to do the economic justice component, the Civil Rights Movement will have stalled and failed most of these people that we’re concerned about. “
As the conversation wraps up, Horowitz relays the message she believes her husband, who died in 2015, would give to those who have been distressed by the rise of far-right white nationalism and the election of Donald Trump.
“If Julian were here, he would say, ‘Don’t agonize, organize,’” says the SPLC attorney. “And that would be what he would want us to be doing.”
Listen to the full discussion between Long, Horowitz and Scheer as they recall Bond through his vital work as well as through their own personal memories of the civil rights leader in the media player above. You can also read a transcript of the interview below the credits.
Natasha Hakimi Zapata
ROBERT SCHEER: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where I hasten to say the intelligence comes from my guests. And in this case, two people who are very interesting in their own right: Michael G. Long, who is a professor of religious studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, a major expert on a whole range of subjects involving civil rights, gay, black, gender and everything — I’m not going to go through his whole list. But I, my attention was drawn to books about Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King and Bayard Rustin, and we’ll hopefully get into some of that. And Pamela Horowitz, who is a lawyer who works with the Southern Poverty Law Center, very famous in Montgomery, and actually took a very important landmark case on gender discrimination having to do with female prison guards, and applies to the firemen and police and everything else, whether being a woman would disqualify them from a position; it’s a famous Title VII case.
But what brings them together is a book about — and this is going to be broadcast on sort of the last week of Black History [Month], just coincidentally that we’re doing this. But in reading the book I thought, wow, this book — the title of which is “Race Man: Selected Works,” by Julian Bond, from 1960-2015. And Julian Bond, right there with John Lewis — these are probably the two people most famously and legitimately connected with one of the most important civil rights organizations, SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, formed in 1960. So we’re actually up on the 60th anniversary of SNCC. And it was the organization that really gave a lot of emphasis and push and guts to what was a traditional civil rights movement. And then of course Martin Luther King played a very vigorous role, and they had a — we can discuss the connection between the two.
But the book is fascinating from my sense, and a very fast read, even though it’s over 300 pages. It’s published by City Lights publishers, it’s — I tried getting it on Amazon and a couple of bookstores, it’s not quite out yet, but I was able to get a copy from the publisher and read it. It’s a very fast read, but it’s a great glimpse at history, this really important history. And I’m going to let the authors talk about it. Let me just say, by the way, Pamela Horowitz was married to Julian Bond. And basically, Michael, I guess you edited the book and put it together, right? And so tell us about the construction of the book. And as I say, the reason it’s so important is because they were the youthful courage and impulse and confidence of a civil rights movement that, you know, had kind of been dormant up through the earlier period, and more looking for respectability. And suddenly, they were upping the ante. So just take us to those first years, as described — and the book is a collection of writing by Julian Bond, who I happened to know quite well at different points. And he was, in addition to a brilliant speaker and thinker, a very good writer. And so the book is a great — I don’t want to say romp, but a great journey through the civil rights movement, really, during its most important period. So set the stage, the origin of SNCC.
MICHAEL G. LONG: Sure, I’ll take — I’ll start, Pamela, and then maybe you can jump in. But the book begins in 1960, and at this point Bond is a student at Morehouse College, and one of his friends there is Lonnie King. And Lonnie King sees Julian Bond sitting at a cafe near Morehouse, and he says to Julian, “What do you think about the Greensboro sit-in?” And Bond says something like, “I think it’s great.” And King says, “Don’t you think it ought to happen here?” And Bond says, “Oh, I’m sure it’ll happen here; surely someone here will do it.” And then King says, “Well, what about you?”
RS: ”Here” — excuse me, ”here” being — tell people where Morehouse is?
ML: Oh, Morehouse is in Atlanta. And so King says, “Well, why don’t you do something with us? Why don’t we make it happen here?” And really that’s the question that propelled Julian Bond into the civil rights movement. It happened in 1960 at Morehouse College, and from there on, he joins forces with Lonnie King; they start a small committee in Atlanta to attack segregation in Atlanta’s public institutions. In 1960, Julian Bond is actually arrested when he takes an interracial group — or a black, sorry, a black group to the City Hall cafeteria there in Atlanta, and is arrested for creating a disturbance. So that really kicks off Bond’s civil rights career.
RS: And we should mention that Julian Bond came from a very well-established black family in the South. His father was a —
ML: Yeah, if you want to talk about that, Pam knows a lot about Julian’s background.
RS: OK. Pam —
PAMELA HOROWITZ: Yes, but let me say first that, you know, this is Mike’s book; he is the editor. I had really nothing to do with it. I kept staying out of the way, because Julian’s papers are at the University of Virginia; there are a few that are copyrighted, and I control the copyrights. But all of the materials were selected by Mike, and I only wrote a foreword, and that’s really the extent of my involvement.
RS: Yeah, but you were very deeply involved in the civil rights movement, and you bring a lot of expertise to this discussion. You were in Montgomery, and — yeah.
PH: Well, I really didn’t do that either. I only say I was too young, but the real thing, the real reason I wasn’t in the movement per se is that I was too unaware. But I ended up going to law school because I wanted to do civil rights work, and then ended up at the Southern Poverty Law Center. So, but that was after what we consider the period of the modern civil rights movement, although Julian was always quick to say that the movement never ended. And he would say, if he were here now, that it goes on to this moment.
RS: Yeah, I just want to help set the stage a little bit here. And I think you’re being very modest. I think it took a lot of courage to be working in Montgomery, and working on these issues that you worked on. But let me just say, by coincidence, I happened to go through the South in 1960. I didn’t know John Lewis and Julian Bond then, but I was with a couple of people who — white people who thought they should integrate bathrooms; they were radical and so forth. And I actually went through Plains, I went through that area where Jimmy Carter’s from, and so forth. And I must say, I was scared all that time. And I’m white, and I was with white people, but they were still insisting on integrating bathrooms, and they had their own radicalism. But what — you make it sound like, you know, OK, here’s this historic black college, and let’s do what they’re doing in Greensboro. But the people in Greensboro were being very, very brave. And the courage required — we now think of Atlanta as a very sophisticated, cosmopolitan city. But the politics, the racism there, the policing was really quite brutal then. And, you know — yeah —
ML: — Oh I’m sorry, go ahead, Pam.
PH: No, the people — there’s no question that the people who were in the throes of the modern civil rights movement, say from 1960 to 1968, were incredibly courageous and confronted horrible racism, to say nothing of threats to their body and soul every day. So there’s no question of that. And I went to the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1974, so it was, you know, it was very close in time, but the hostility that SNCC faced — and SNCC in particular, because they were the ones who were in the field. They had the largest field operation in, you know, the worst places, Mississippi being the worst, and they had people all over Mississippi. And we must never forget the people who live there, and how much courage it took for them to let the SNCC people live with them, and then to actually participate and register to vote. And you know, as you know, many of them did die.
RS: Yeah, and just to set —
ML: Can I jump — Robert, can I jump in here a second and say that Julian openly expressed concern about his own safety in the civil rights movement. And he wasn’t a big fan, he said openly, about being on the front line of the movement; he felt much more comfortable behind a typewriter. But he was arrested in 1960, and what gave him pause especially is that when he went to Atlanta, he had Emmett Till in mind. And Emmett Till was the 14-year-old black man who was lynched in Money, Mississippi, in 1955. And Bond reflected on Till quite a bit, and said at one point, if they did that to Emmett Till, what will they do to me? So, Emmett Till is really foremost, front and center, in Julian’s thoughts in 1960.
RS: Yeah, and I do want to bring up his own background, because he had other options. He came from an educated family, he could have traveled; he was a very articulate, very smart fellow. And he decided to really be involved, and I think it’s a sign of his courage. And as I say, I actually got to know him, you know, what, five, six years later after that. I’ll tell that story, but the fact of the matter is, courage really is more in evidence when people have a realistic appraisal of how dangerous the moment is. And John Lewis, of course, ended up being brutally attacked after, in the civil rights movement.
And just for people who don’t know the Julian Bond story, let me just give an overview. He was really the first black person elected to office from a grassroots basis in Georgia, and he entered a very hostile environment; we’ll get to that story. But in addition to other issues, he and John Lewis decided that it was important to oppose the Vietnam War very early on, 1964. And even though he won his election to the House of Representatives in Georgia, and later he would win into the Senate in the state of Georgia, they did not allow him to take his seat. They had to have a major case that went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
And so Julian Bond was someone who was willing to risk action in the streets. And so was John Lewis, who of course is a congressman to this day in the U.S. Congress. But, and these people were certainly willing to embrace electoral politics, but they were out there with really crude, violent, racists. This was not some gentrified notion of the South and so forth. And even when he was serving in the House, in your book, he describes the incredible racism of his fellow legislators, and talking about their involvement in violence and killing black people and so forth. The, you know, so-called respectable whites.
So I just want to get across that since this is Black History Month that we’re participating in, we’re not talking — you know, the South has been — you know, somebody said we have the new South — it’s the old South plus air conditioning, or something. But there are a lot, obviously, a lot of changes now, and so forth. But at that time we’re talking about — you know, as you mentioned, Emmett Till, a young boy who looked the wrong way at a woman and gets lynched — we’re talking about the incredible brutalization of people, and we should not forget that. And so for these young kids, really, college students, to say oh, they’re doing that in Greensboro and we’re going to do it here in Atlanta — that meant they knew they were risking their lives. This was not some, you know, oh, let’s have a spring break week or something. This was, let’s really risk everything.
ML: Yes. You’re right about that, Robert. I think that Emmett Till was front and center in everybody’s mind. When Mamie Till decided to run those pictures of her son in Jet magazine so that the world could see what happened to Emmett Till, I think that had a great effect, especially on the young people throughout the South, the young black people throughout the South. And so they knew what they were up against when SNCC took off, and when other civil rights events took off. They knew that they were up against murders and mayhem of unspeakable horror.
PH: Well, it had happened [inaudible] so it was not theoretical.
RS: Yeah, so why don’t you set that stage? Because unfortunately, yes, some people listening to this will know the whole history. But I’ve discovered, because I teach here at the University of Southern California where we are recording, and unfortunately there isn’t that much knowledge about, you know, the struggle for the Voting Rights Act, and the struggle to just be able to vote. And so set the stage. That’s what is so powerful in your book, that Julian Bond is writing in that book in real time, and expressing a sense of reality which is quite intimidating, quite frightening. And as I say, we’ve cleaned up the image of the South, but it was an exercise in extreme brutality at a time when they were trying to fight for their basic human rights.
ML: Yeah, Bond was the director of communications for SNCC. And so part of his responsibility was to go out into the field and report on what SNCC was doing in its grassroots efforts across the South. And he documented more than a few cases of blacks who had been viciously beaten, killed. He documented blacks who had, black folks who had seen murders and were bodily threatened. The stories that he reported on are absolutely horrific. But they also had a really positive effect in the sense that they garnered attention to SNCC’s important work, and because they really helped advance the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I mean, the horror that they faced on a daily basis was really the seed of that Voting Rights Act of 1965. There’s no doubt about it. And Julian played a huge role in that, in the sense that he reported on those activities so that whites in the wider world, and blacks across America, could see what was going on.
RS: Yeah, it’s interesting you mention that, because as I say, this book — and I want to draw attention to it: “Race Man.” And we should explain what the title is about. Let me explain it, and just get through it. But it means that you’re in the black community, and you’re somebody who has indicated to other people in that community that you care more about the community than about your own career, your own self. Is that a correct definition of your title, “Race Man”?
ML: Yeah, that is correct. And I think Pam has a story that’s associated with “Race Man,” and the bench that recently was installed in Julian’s, his memory. Pam, can you talk about that?
PH: Well, Julian always said that he wanted a bench after he died, and that he wanted it to say ”race man” on one side, and ”easily amused” on the other side. [Laughter] Which tells you a lot about Julian, because I always said that Julian couldn’t do the serious work of being a race man without having a sense of humor, and he had a fabulous sense of humor, and was always very funny. And he was easily amused. But I say in my foreword that he was a race man in the mold of Thurgood Marshall, and quote, that Marshall ”became what blacks of the 1930s admiringly called ‘a race man’: a black man whose major work was to advance the interests of his race.” And so, and the earlier incarnation of that, of course, would be W.E.B. Du Bois, and Julian’s own father, Horace Mann Bond. And so Julian always considered himself a race man.
RS: Yeah, and — well, go ahead, Michael.
ML: Robert, what’s interesting about the book is that it ends with Doug Brinkley’s afterword, a great historian. And he makes the case that Bond was much more than a race man. He was, indeed, and I think that’s his primary identity; Bond was a race man, and that’s why the book is titled that way. And yet this was a man who advanced the civil rights movement, in my mind, more than anybody else. This is a man who connected the civil rights movement to women’s rights, to LGBTQ+ rights, to human rights, in ways that other civil rights leaders just didn’t do. So yeah, he was a race man to his core, but he was also a lot more than that, too — he was a human rights man.
RS: Yeah. So let me take that to its next stage. The power of this book, by the way, is it doesn’t stop at one period. We learn how this movement moved from one period to another — -and also reversals, failures. I mean, one of the depressing things about this book — I’ll give the depressing part at the end — is right with us now, is the failure to have the economic advances that would make the civil rights technically legal advances more meaningful. You know, Martin Luther King dying, supporting garbage workers in Memphis, and certainly Julian and John Lewis were very strong on the need for economic change, economic opportunity. And that unfortunately has not happened. But the major, one of the major ways the SNCC people —everybody forgets the vitality of the student organization, of these young people. They changed the adult civil rights movement. And as one example, you’re right bringing up other issues.
But one example had to do with the anti-war movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement. And in your book, you have a very compelling description of that, and it really goes to a great deal of courage. Here is SNCC, that started in 1960. And meanwhile the Vietnam War gets going, about three, four years later. And both John Lewis and Julian Bond decide that they have to speak out on the war. And I believe the time was January 1966 — do I have that correctly?
PH: It was before that, it was while Julian was running, and it was SNCC, it was a SNCC statement.
PH: And what had happened was there had been anti-war sentiment bubbling up in SNCC, and then at a voting rights demonstration at Tuskegee, a SNCC person named Sammy Young, who had been in the Navy and lost a kidney — so he had to go to the bathroom more often than most people — and he went to use, he used a whites-only bathroom at a gas station in Tuskegee, and the gas station owner shot him in the back and killed him. And that was the impetus for SNCC to issue its anti-war statement, which was very strong, and criticized the United States for its treatment of black people around the world, but including the United States of America. And the — and then, you know, talked about immorality and the unjustness of the war. And so that was the vehicle by which the Georgia legislature refused to seat Julian. Because he didn’t write the statement, but he endorsed the statement as a member of SNCC.
RS: Yeah, but he also said that he was a pacifist, and he —
ML: It’s really interesting, in 1965 and 1966 he’s calling himself a pacifist, and he hedges on that a bit, and it doesn’t take him long to say that he’s not a pacifist. But you know, what’s interesting about him saying that is that I connect it to his time at George School, right outside of Philadelphia; he studied with Quakers, as Bayard Rustin did. And both of them, I think, were influenced by nonviolence and pacifism, and social justice issues, and were part of the Quaker community at that point. So when he’s heading to Atlanta in 1957, he’s taking those teachings with him. But in 1965, when SNCC comes out with this statement, he supports it. He says he supports it because it’s right; he also says he supports it because he’s a pacifist. He says this on “Meet the Press;” “Meet the Press” really grills him —
RS: Oh, they tried to tear him apart. It was unseemly, it was horrible. You know, Novak and those people, they just — you know, it was vicious. But I do want to — -first of all, Bayard Rustin, who organized the March on Washington, was a pacifist. And pacifism was not so far removed from the nonviolence of the whole civil rights movement. And also, as Julian pointed out at that time, in that statement a disproportionate number of black people were going into, being drafted into the military. I believe the figure was 18% or something. And this is the point, I just want to make a connection to Martin Luther King. Because Martin Luther King did say he got a lot of his inspiration, and he was, you know, kept in check by these young people in SNCC. And so it was SNCC that really said — and I mean, I know this personally, because I ran for Congress as a peace candidate in Oakland and Berkeley in ’66. And Julian came out and campaigned for me, so I had a lot of personal contact with him and with John Lewis at that time. And these guys were not just mentioning the war. They were the first ones to connect the civil rights movement with, as you said, other movements, but particularly the anti-war movement, which was developing strongly. It had to do with the military budget taking resources, it had to do with the hypocrisy of going to supposedly fight for the freedom of people in another country when you’re not free in Georgia or anywhere else. They also advanced alternative service ideas. And the link to Martin Luther King’s coming out against the war, which really took great courage, and he was attacked for it. And that was, what, three years later, on two years later, right?
ML: April 4, 1967, is when he made his big speech at Riverside.
RS: So we go from January ’66 to — it’s only a year later, he’s actually picking up on what Julian Bond and John Lewis had advanced. I want to give him a lot of credit, because he took it to a much bigger audience, but he was inspired — and he said it — by young people and SNCC. And then the people he talked to in the communities, because they were facing the whole issue of violence, non-violence, right? We go into the military, and it was Martin Luther King who in that speech said, how can I tell young people in the ghetto to shun violence, when my government is the major purveyor of violence in the world today? That was Martin Luther King’s statement, and he was attacked all over the place for it.
So what is so interesting about your book — and the book, by the way, “Race Man,” City Lights Books, I want to move a little faster through the book to just indicate to people how much they can learn from it, frankly. I learned — and I’m going to get to what I learned, because some of it I knew quite well. But this issue of, you know, OK, there in ’65, ’66. And you mentioned the Voting Rights Act, and so that first section of your book goes to the origins of SNCC, and it’s a very important, indispensable history, actually. And then it’s linking up with the other movements, and so forth.
But then you get to the section about Jimmy Carter. And it is interesting because I found it one of the most fascinating, because I learned so much from it. I have a lot of respect for Jimmy Carter as an ex-president. I’m also the person who interviewed him for Playboy about lust in his heart, and Vietnam and so forth. And I spent time in Plains, but I was in Plains in 1960. And there was a place called Koinonia Farm up the road from the Carters, that was actually an intentional community of a Christian variety. And they actually were practicing some racial integration, and they were being attacked and bombed and so forth. And one of the things I learned from your book is that Jimmy Carter was not so enlightened on the desegregation issue very early, and he actually opposed — before he became governor of Georgia — but he actually opposed the civil rights voting act. And Julian was very reluctant to support Jimmy Carter, even when he was running for president, when he’d been governor. He raised questions, and in fact you have a very powerful article in your book in which he says: Jimmy Carter is still a redneck; he covers it with fancy clothes, but under that collar, he’s a redneck. And it’s a quite controversial view of Jimmy Carter, who is, you know, not in good health now, and people are thinking about him. People are actually preparing books. I learned something from your book that maybe I was a little bit naive about Jimmy Carter’s feelings about the civil rights. So why don’t you take us there?
ML: Sure. Well, I don’t think Julian Bond liked Carter at all. I think he found Carter shallow, I think he found him unsupportive in terms of civil rights, early on at least. He believed, Carter, that the Voting Rights Act was problematic in the sense that the federal government was trying to tell Georgia what to do, and Carter didn’t like that. And Julian thought that that was trampling on, or trammeling on the voting rights of African Americans in Georgia. And so Bond didn’t like that about Carter; Bond didn’t like Carter’s failure to go after the black vote early on in Georgia. He also didn’t like Carter personally. He believed that Carter lied, publicly lied about Julian, especially in 1968; Bond says that Carter approached him to approach McGovern and ask McGovern to consider Carter as a running mate. And Bond says that he did that, and Carter later said that he never talked to Bond about that. And so Bond took great umbrage at that, and considered Jimmy Carter just a bald-faced liar. So he had lots of problems with Jimmy Carter, and he never, as far as I can tell, warmed up to Carter. He was a big McGovern supporter, and he was a big Kennedy supporter as well. And maybe Pam has something to add to this.
PH: Well, yes, I was going to say that I agree with all that, and in ’76 Julian was the only member of the Georgia delegation to the Democratic Convention who was a Ted Kennedy delegate, and the Carter people have not gotten over it to this day. But I will say that as the years went on, that Julian did have some respect for Jimmy Carter as an ex-president. I think he never warmed up to him as a president. You know, Jimmy Carter nominated Griffin Bell as attorney general; Griffin Bell had voted to exclude Julian from the legislature. So Julian testified against Griffin Bell, and that was another thing that he held against Carter, and rightly so. But he did, he did come to admire the Carters, in Julian’s later years and Carter’s, you know, later years as an ex-president.
RS: Yeah, and — but I mean, the reason I stress that is because Jimmy Carter was part of the sort of development of a fantasy of the New South, as enlightened, and suddenly things just changed. And they didn’t change that rapidly, which Julian experienced when he was trying to work in the Georgia legislature, and first they wouldn’t even let him be seated, and then you know, he experienced violent rhetoric and hostility and so forth. And you know, to be the first black member, I think, of the Georgia Senate — wasn’t he the first? Anyway, he didn’t get a happy reception. And they voted against seating him, but an enormous — now, everybody forgets that the Democratic Party was the party of segregation. And that vote, I think there were only 12 people who voted for seating him, even though he was the Democratic incumbent at that moment, he would have been.
ML: If I could back up a little bit, so when he was seated, he was in the House of Representatives. And there were, I think, 11 other blacks who had been elected in that particular year. And they didn’t seat him, obviously, because he supported SNCC’s statement against the war. And then he ran again, when he had to, and he won his seat again, then he ran again and he won his seat again. And then the Supreme Court eventually backed him. But it was —
RS: The Supreme Court backed him unanimously, right?
ML: I don’t know —
RS: In your book it says unanimously. [Laughter]
ML: Go ahead, Pam.
RS: Pam, you’ve practiced before the Supreme Court, so you probably know this case better than anyone.
PH: Well, the case is called Bond v. Floyd, and it’s, you know, it’s always been an important precedent for the rights of voters. Because they really decided it on the basis of the U.N.’s constituents having a right to elect him, whatever his fellow legislators may have thought about that judgment.
RS: So let me — I want to move the pace a little bit here, because there’s a lot in this book, and it’s really food for thought. And so let me, before I drop Vietnam, let me just make a point there. They weren’t going to seat him in the legislature because he had dared to come out with a position against the war, and they called him a traitor and so forth. Interestingly enough, the senator from Georgia was Richard Russell. And if you listen to the Lyndon Johnson tapes, there’s an amazing conversation between Lyndon Johnson, in 1964, and the same Richard Russell, who was a powerful member of the Senate. And the two, the president and the Senate — this is in ’64, before SNCC comes out against the war. And Johnson says to Russell, “Is there any reason how we can justify this war, sending young men to die there? I got a soldier right outside, guarding my door. What if he goes there and he’s killed? What do I say to his widow? Is there any justification?” And the same Sen. Russell from Georgia says, “None that I know of.” And then Lyndon Johnson says, “But we can’t not go, because Goldwater, who I’m running against, is going to tear me apart.”
So these two guys and the senator from Georgia — not the state senator, but the U.S. senator from Georgia at that time — says there’s no justification for this war. Yet, because we’re in it, we have to support it. Here’s Julian Bond, this young guy who gets elected to the House, and from this organization SNCC, a year later, and they say there’s no justification for this war, and it should be criticized, and people should have alternatives, community service or something instead of going and everything. And he is denounced as a traitor. And you know, even though the leader of — the most respected politician in that state had said, very clearly — and even said it publicly occasionally — he couldn’t justify the war, yet he voted to support it in every which way, I just want to remind people of the kind of naive idealism of SNCC, that turned out to be accurate realism. But let me just move a little faster here.
ML: Well, Bob, can I jump in there quickly and say that Bond and SNCC were really at the vanguard of the civil rights movement on this issue. And you’re right to highlight King and April 4, 1967, in Riverside. But he did that under great stress, and under great pressure from Stokely Carmichael and the rest of the gang at SNCC. They had been after him for a very long time to come out against the war, and King was just reluctant. He was too pragmatic on the issue, practical on the issue, and he remained silent for a long time. Bond and Carmichael and the rest of SNCC, they were really at the vanguard of the movement on this issue.
RS: Yes. And King gave credit in his speech to young people who challenged him. He was very clear about that. But let me just move on a little bit fast, just to give people a sense of the scope of this book, because there’s a lot — I mean, again, I’m taking this idea of Black History Month seriously, and it’s a complex history. And one of the things that, again, I learned from your book is that Julian Bond was very early to the debate about the environment, and concern about the environment. And I found that a fascinating section in your book, what he wrote about that. Because he warned — this was all, I remember the time. Ehrlich had written his “Population Bomb,” and there was just a lot of feeling that the whole problem with the — and there was a sense of concern about the environment, and we had Earth Day and so forth. But — the Whole Earth Catalog. But Julian Bond had the foresight to say, don’t make the poor people the ones that have to pay the price. And don’t hold them to, you know, the people who haven’t been consumers and now are trying to be consumers. And he entered a very sophisticated notion about the environment that is actually important to read for today. You know, how are you going to get people in India and China to be more concerned about non-renewable resources, more concerned about sacrificing because of climate change and so forth, when we’ve already been these people who were the very small percentage of the world’s population have consumed an outside amount of these resources. And I was very impressed with that particular little section of your book. Another one is that, again —
ML: Robert, can I jump in here a second? He was, Bond was really concerned about environmental issues for a couple reasons early on. One is that he thought kids picking up litter was problematic because of the pressing issues facing black communities. And so when he thought of the environment movement in 1970, he thought mostly of pollution and litter control, and it obviously evolved into something else, and Bond supported that. But early on, he’s really concerned about the shifting of focus away from the civil rights movement to environmental issues. He’s also concerned that a focus on environment will end up sacrificing jobs for lower-income black folks. So that’s another concern he has early on. But later —
RS: Let me just throw in another controversial concern he had, had to do with this ”population bomb” image of Ehrlich and so forth. Because it seemed to be saying, the wrong people are having children, and that has to be discouraged. And I must say, I’m just taking my hat off to him, I didn’t know, but I’m talking about how timely these columns are, even though they’re, some of them are 50 or 40, 60 years old. I just found that interesting. Let me just move it a little faster. Another section that I found, right in the moment today, was the black-Jewish relationship, and thinking about that. And Julian was a center of controversy at one point, because he dared say something about the rights of Palestinians. And there was an accusation of being anti-Semitic, and he was one to draw a distinction between being anti- the current posture of the State of Israel, and being anti-Semitic. But there was tension within the civil rights movement about that. So why don’t you talk about that a bit?
ML: Sure. So Bond is coming out of SNCC, but he is very well aware that the NAACP has had great support from the Jewish community through the years. And so Bond recognizes the strength of the alliance between the black communities and Jewish communities. But Bond is not what he calls a Zionist at some point, and he is a big fan of Palestinians, and having a state for them. And stating that gets him into a lot of trouble, and there’s some blowback at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Pam, do you want to pick it up from there?
PH: Well, he was the president of the center at the time, and a lot of the donors were Jewish, and so it did create a lot of controversy within that donor group, for years.
RS: Yeah, it’s interesting, because now we have Bernie Sanders running, finally there’s a chance for a Jewish person to become president — and yet, and he happens to be the one candidate that is speaking out most about Palestinians, which is really refreshing and consistent. I don’t know whether others will follow. But I just thought that that was interesting, that Julian — and I think this can be said of that whole generation of civil rights heroes, really —they were willing to tackle controversial questions. You mentioned Stokely Carmichael, who ends up living in Ghana and so forth. They got involved. They got involved in issues of U.S. imperialism, which after all, Martin Luther King, again, doesn’t use that word, but addresses in that speech: what are we doing all over the world, as all those wars continue. And SNCC — I just, reading this book, it’s really a tribute to SNCC as much as it’s a tribute to Julian Bond, or the movement he came out of. And he never lost that connection. He was thinking to the end, he was provocative to the end, he was concerned about moral consistency to the end. And that’s, I would say, certainly true of John Lewis now. You know, he’s one of the more interesting and consistent people around that we have in politics. And I think it was a remarkable generation of young, black people who in the most hostile environment, had the broadest view of the human condition. It was charitable, it was open. I mean, why would they even care about Palestinians or Vietnamese or anything? They got so many problems right there on every street corner in Atlanta, you know — and yet they did. They had a universalist concern.
PH: Yes, and many of them, they may not be as well known as Julian and John became, but most of the people in SNCC continued that work throughout their lifetime, and remain Julian’s closest friends and comrades.
RS: So, listen —
ML: The other point I’d like to note, though, is that Bond sort of falls away from SNCC when Carmichael takes it toward black nationalism and the embrace of any means necessary for self defense. So Bond, like John Lewis, sort of pulled away from SNCC at that point. And that’s an important point to remember as well; you know, Bond and Lewis are integrationists, and they’re in accord with King, and they’re part of that old guard in some ways. But if you read Bond’s later writings, you can really see the influence of black nationalism on his own thoughts. He calls for the strengthening of all black institutions, and the need for black folks to build their own institutions in the face of white racism. So while he pulled away from SNCC later on, he really took some of those ideas forward.
RS: Yeah, and he had a pretty warm relationship with the black Muslim community at one point. And you know, was even able to get them involved in some politics. But look, I’m only — in my notes, and we’re going to run out of time — I’m only on page 100, and your book is 300 pages. So work with me a little bit. But what impressed me — I’ll go a little longer. But I mean, what impressed me on page 100 is in getting back to Martin Luther King being with the garbage men’s strike in Memphis at the end, saying if we fail to get economic justice, the civil rights movement will have failed. And Julian was strong on that. And what I found fascinating was his view as an elected person — mind you, people who don’t know this should know one of Julian Bond’s achievements is he was able to take electoral politics seriously and be very successful. That means he had to be real to the people in his community. In fact, when he lost to John Lewis —and I have a lot of respect for John Lewis — the fact is Julian Bond got more votes in the black community, according to your book, than John Lewis did, not to take anything away from John Lewis. But Julian Bond, who came from a more educated, upper class background — I don’t know, educator-class background — was, I watched him, I was with him in the streets — he was very good. And even, I wrote something about it, even when I dragged him out to the Perry Homes project. You know, he could move very easily in the streets, and he got elected; he got elected over and over again. And what he was able to do, and I want to quote him, because it very much applies to the economic issues we’re facing now, and why we have a right-wing — yeah —
ML: Before you get there, I have to jump in and say, Bond lost that race in 1986 because John Lewis effectively carried out a dirty campaign that attacked Julian Bond’s character. He depicted Bond as lazy, as ineffective, as a druggie, as somebody who was out of touch with the black masses. That was a dirty campaign. It was, and I think it’s important for us to remember that; it’s not a good part of John Lewis’ legacy, but it’s there, and that’s why Bond lost that campaign.
RS: Yeah, but in your book —
PH: Well, also, John got the white vote because people in Atlanta remembered what they considered to be Julian’s treasonous statement against the war back in 1965.
RS: But John Lewis also made a strong statement against the war.
PH: Yeah, but that wasn’t — it was, you know, attributed to Julian, because that’s why he [inaudible].
RS: OK, and people should read your book — people should read the book, because it does go into that. All I’m going to say is, he does refer a number of times in the book, in his writing, to John Lewis — at different points, anyway — being his closest friend. But anyway–
PH: That was before the election. [Laughter]
RS: Yeah, well, they did have something of a make-up, but I don’t want to get into that; you know, one is not with us anymore, the other is still there and he could speak to it. But what they did seem to agree on was this need to be concerned about the economic fairness and justice. I don’t want to lose this point here. And Julian Bond, who was in politics, but instead of selling out — which is what often happens — instead of, you know, just getting influence and power for himself, he made a very important point that is in your book, in the articles that he wrote. He said, politics is not what we learn in school. It’s not the art of compromise. OK? It’s — and this is, I’m quoting from your book — he said, it’s not the art of the deal. It’s not the — he said, it’s ”the art of seeing who gets how much of what from whom.” And he’s — I thought that was the most powerful quote, because of our economic crisis now. That we have so many people —white, black, green, brown, yellow — who can’t make a decent living; they’re left behind. Some go to right-wing populism, some go to left-wing populism. But there was Julian Bond as a respected member of this legislation with a big national following, and he said, I’m going to look at, you know, who’s getting screwed and who’s doing the screwing, which happens to be my personal slogan.
And the way he put it is, he said, it’s “the art of seeing who gets how much of what from whom.” And he had a very strong sense of obligation to not just the elite in the black community, which Atlanta had, but more so — and I know, because I went around Atlanta with him a number of, quite a few times — he had a real sense of how is this playing out in the poorest neighborhoods. And I think that is a very important part of his legacy. Even though he had, you know, an elite education, his father was a major figure, and so forth and so on. And that is what Martin Luther King was saying at the end of his life, before he was assassinated. You know, if we fail to do the economic justice component, the civil rights movement will have stalled and failed most of these people that we’re concerned about. And I think that’s a theme in your book.
ML: Yeah, Bond was clearly a big fan of the social welfare state; and I thought of him last night when I was listening to Bernie Sanders. And Sanders drew from King; he could have drawn from Julian Bond as well when he said that America is a country where we have socialism, but for the rich; we have capitalism for the poor. And that was a line that Bond used frequently in his writing and in his speeches. He was a constant critic of a capitalism that left the poor behind. In fact, I think he had many, many arguments with Ronald Reagan, but that was probably the main argument — that Reagan’s economics were disastrous for the poor.
RS: Yeah, and we’re going to end this, but I just want to say one of the things that struck me in your book, you have some wonderful pictures there. And by the way, it’s a City Lights book. I’m very fond of City Lights, because I was a book clerk there for three years when I left graduate school, and I got a great education, and they do publish terrific books. And this is certainly right at the top of the list. “Race Man: Selected Works, 1960-2015,” Julian Bond, edited by Michael G. Long who I’ve been talking to, and Pamela Horowitz wrote the introduction. And as you say, the great presidential scholar, Brinkley, Douglas Brinkley, has a very important afterword. But what I came away from, and one of the pictures sort of summarized it for me. It’s a picture of Paul Robeson — Paul Robeson, for people who don’t know was one of the great national figures, a black person who stood up for civil rights, and then he got red-baited, he got attacked. He was a great artist, a great athlete, a great opera singer, great football player, great, great, great. And he dared to have the courage to challenge the American empire and talk about its contradictions, as Julian Bond did. And he’s been made a non-person. You’ll hardly ever see any reference to Paul Robeson. And I know that — because I knew Julian Bond, and I knew other people there — I know that in their world, Paul Robeson was a figure of inspiration.
And so I don’t know if you want to say anything about it, but I think what’s at issue here — and we are talking in Black History [Month] — there’s a radical tradition that gave us the civil rights movement, gave us the anti-war movement, gave us the gay liberation movement, you can go down the list. And it’s that attitude that you can’t accept the compromise. You’ve got to up the ante. And if you think of the lasting impact of SNCC, it said to the traditional — it’s ironic, because Julian Bond ends his life being head of the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. You know, but nonetheless, that traditional organization under Julian Bond came to be informed by the spirit of SNCC, that certain radical energy, a certain ”we’ve got to push this harder and faster, or it’s going to die” spirit. And that’s really what pushed the civil rights movement and pushed every single movement that has met it. And that’s what I came away from in your book, a reminder of that.
PH: And that’s how the NAACP came to endorse marriage equality. After the influence of Julian, who was, you know, one of the first national black leaders to support gay rights and say that gay rights are civil rights.
ML: If you want to even push this even further, if you want to see Bond’s radicalism at the end of his life, look not only at his stances on LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage, but look at that picture there’s a picture of him getting arrested for protesting at Keystone pipeline. And I think — I love that picture, because that just sums up, for me that sums up the radical dimension of his life. And again, it just goes way back to 1962. I mean, there’s a consistent theme, Robert, and it’s the radical dissent from mainstream U.S. politics that ignores equal justice under law.
RS: So let me finally end by asking you a question. You’re a professor of religion, right?
ML: Yes, right. And peace and conflict studies.
RS: OK. Let me just get to the religion part. And here you had in the South, you had a black and white Baptist movement. And the white Baptist movement still remains locked into — I was shocked, I was in Louisiana quite a long time ago, but still it was the ‘90s, and actually went to an AA meeting, because I didn’t want to go back to drinking. And I went to a black AA meeting, I just didn’t know they were still divided by racial component, and then I went to, they said you might be more comfortable with the other one, I went to the white one. And I just never have gotten over the idea that religion could divide people in the name of the same God, the same scripture, the way in the South the white Baptist religion became a justification, was a justification for slavery, for deep segregation. The black Baptist movement was fueled, gave comfort, support, leadership to the civil rights movement. So maybe that’s a good point to end on, because you know, you sort of have that floating through the book in these articles.
ML: Well, one of the unique parts about Bond, I think, is that there doesn’t seem to be a religious bone in his body. He is not like Dr. King. You know, he’s not like many of the other civil rights leaders. He’s influenced by the Quakers, no doubt about it. But he has seen the destructive role that religion has played in his life and the lives of so many black folks. And he doesn’t use religion at all to advance civil rights, it seems to me. And maybe Pam can speak to this a bit more. But he’s a unique civil rights leader in the sense that he’s more of a humanist than he is a black Baptist.
PH: Yes, that’s absolutely true. And so was his father; I think he got part of that, you know, from him.
RS: So Pam, just give us the final word here, and we’ll wrap this up. What do you think is the lasting impact, the example set by Julian Bond? What do you think is the major takeaway? Because you know, one reason to have this book and get people to read it is I do think he’s one of the great exemplary leaders, role models, that we’ve had. How would you define that leadership?
PH: Well, I think that you always have to have hope, because without hope there can’t be change. And given our situation now, I have been saying since 2016 that if Julian were here, he would say don’t agonize, organize. And that would be what he would want us to be doing.
RS: Don’t agonize, organize. And this is coming from people — I’m going to put John Lewis in the same group in this respect, and Julian Bond and this incredible group of young people in this South, black, facing the worst kind of intimidation and violence, who rose to the heights of tolerance, understanding, and effectiveness in changing the country and dealing with some of its most monstrous instincts. So on that note, it can be done. Read this book, “Race Man,” to learn more about somebody I’m promoting as a role model, Julian Bond. And I want to thank our guests, the editor of this book, Michael G. Long, who has written, you can look him up; he’s written a number of very important books on a whole range of subjects. And you know, we’ll post some of that on the site.
And I want to thank in particular, though she hasn’t spoken as much, Pamela Horowitz, but because I think it’s a technical issue, people coming in the on phone or so forth. But [she] has really played, she played it down before, but has been a major figure — I’m going to say it — in the civil rights movement as an attorney. And working, I believe I mentioned you work with the ACLU in Washington, you work with the Southern Poverty Law Center, and you worked with it — yes, you came later in the early ‘70s, but there was a lot of important work to be done. And I am blown away that you took one of the most important gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court and won, so let’s hear it for Pamela Horowitz. That’s it for this edition. [omission]
PH: Thank you for having us.