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April 1, 2014

Bond shares insights on civil rights past, present

MILLEDGEVILLE — Civil rights leader Julian Bond is reflective at this stage in life on the movement he played such a vital role in carrying out in its early years.

From his college days as a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), to his role as former chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Bond has been an active participant in the movement.

“Many of us who participated in those early stages of the movement are now standing in reflection of what has happened and what has changed, but the movement is far from over,” he said. “Jim Crow may be dead, but racism is still alive today.”

Hosted by the Georgia College Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, members of the community, GC staff, faculty and students gathered in Russell Auditorium Friday to hear Bond speak on his experiences and opinions on civil rights - then and now.  

His reflective remarks were a part of Georgia College's annual Flagg Legacy Social Justice Spring Lecture Series, named for the Rev. Wilkes B. Flagg of Milledgeville in honor of Flagg's lifelong contributions to educational advancement and social justice.

Bond reiterated it may have been 50 years since segregation ended legally across the nation but racial inequality persists in political and economical facets of society.

Many Americans know of Dr. Martin Luther King, and there are those in past generations that have heard him speak first hand, but there are a select few who can say they had a close friendship and mentorship with King. Bond is one of the select few - one of eight people who had the privilege to be a student under King at Morehouse College in Atlanta during the 1960s.

“I can remember walking across campus with him, and we had many discussions about the racial injustice of the time and I knew this was a man who was passionate about his beliefs,” said Bond.

During a Q and A session with the audience, Bond was asked how he first became involved in civil rights. He said his greatest motivation started at a lunch counter in Atlanta.

His response took a trip back to his college days when he was a 20-year-old man seated in a café across from Morehouse campus. He said another young man leaned over and asked him if he had read the news about black students from North Carolina staging a sit-in protest at a whites-only lunch counter.

“I told him yes, I had read about it. He then suggested that maybe we should do something similar in nature in Atlanta, and before I could say yea or nay, he said you take that side and I'll take the other.”

Since that day, through the creation of the SNCC, Bond organized voting drives and sit-ins to further the cause.

Besides his extensive work in the civil rights movement, Bond is also an active leader in politics as well. Elected in 1965 to the Georgia House of Representatives, he was prevented from taking seat by members who objected to his opposition to the Vietnam War. He was re-elected to his own vacant seat, un-seated again and re-seated only after a third election and unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court. He served four terms in the House and six terms in the Senate.

Bond is a co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and continues to deliver messages of equality, freedom and justice on stages around the country.

In 1968, Bond was co-chairman of the Georgia Loyal National Delegation to the Democratic Convention. He was nominated for vice-president of the United States - the first African-American to be honored by a major political party, but withdrew his name, as he was too young to serve.

He added Friday that the civil rights movement is also considered a progressive movement and there are more changes to come.

“Today black women and men hold positions in power in numbers far greater than anything we could have imagined when the movement first began, but our legislation needs to continue to move forward to fight discrimination wherever it raises its head.”

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