Julian Bond, a leading civil rights activist and anti-war campaigner who helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and later served as chairman of the NAACP, has died at age 75.
In 2008, Bond spoke with Steve Scher, then host of the KUOW program Weekday. He told Scher that nonviolence was an “overwhelmingly effective weapon.”
“If you just look at a quick snapshot of when the Southern Civil Rights movement practiced nonviolence. Massive marches, protests, demonstrations, sit-ins – they changed the whole country,” he said. “They could have adopted these techniques for other changes in our country. We lost that.”
The movement later started focusing on political tactics. Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965.
Bond said he had pride for Barack Obama, a candidate at the time of the interview, but that he couldn’t endorse a presidential candidate, as he was the head of the NAACP. Still, he was effusive in his praise of Obama, then a senator.
“He has found a kind of magic that Martin Luther King had, and that is the ability to speak to both white and black people Americans in the same tone using the same phrases touching both,” Bond said.
“That’s a tremendous gift he has. And I think that has made all the difference.”
And he believed that Obama’s rise as a candidate marked a change in the country, for which he was glad. But he said change wasn't happening fast enough.
“Racism still persists,” he said. “We see it in daily newspaper headlines, you see it in individual interactions and this rash of nooses that have been hung in various places. But it doesn’t have quite the force it once had.”
Reflecting on his own career, Bond said that if he had to do it over again, he would have been a different sort of lawmaker.
“I would have reached out to my white constituents in my district. And I tried to do that, but I don’t think I did that hard enough or well enough,” he said. “I would have been more cooperative with my white colleagues in the Georgia House and the Georgia Senate. I would have tried to build the interracial democracy of Martin Luther King. I didn’t work it that hard enough.”
“Of course they would have had to receive that gesture,” Scher said.
“Yes, and some of them were, but part of the responsibility lay with me,” Bond said.