Julian Bond And The Civil Rights Movement Of The Sixties

When the civil rights icon Julian Bond passed away at the age of 75, news media was quick to laud his work in the civil rights movement of the sixties. But although the images and slogans of that era are irrevocably burned into the minds of those who lived through them, today there are people whose parents were born long after those images came to be. For those who didn’t live at the time to see it, here’s some of those Julian Bond personally affected.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is no longer a household name, but the organization Julian Bond founded was most certainly one in the 60’s. He founded the organiztion with Ella Baker in 1960 as a more in-your-face alternative to the NAACP (which Bond would later be named charmain of, in 1998) and Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Their specialty was protests and demonstrations. He was so devoted to the cause that he would leave college the next year to focus on it entirely – an odd choice for the son of Horace Bond, who was the president of Lincoln University. (Bond’s legal name was Horace Julian Bond; he went by his middle name, Julian, for most of his life.) SNCC also registered voters; while that seems to most today a dull task, in the Jim Crow south where impossible “literacy tests” and intimidation followed any of those blacks who dared to try vote, it was undoubtably a rebellious act. The organization would later exclude whites from membership, and Julian Bond left after that.

He managed the impressive feat of being elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, even though the leaders of the House would refuse to seat him. Julian Bond took them to court, and the Supreme Court ruled in his favor in 1966. Bond would go on to serve 20 years in the Georgia political system: four of those terms in the House, six terms in the senate. He even got nominated as a vice-president candidate in the tumultous election of 1968. (Bond had to decline the nomination because he was seven years too young for it.)

His most lasting achievement, however, wasn’t any of those things, but rather the second organization he founded: the Southern Poverty Law Center, which he co-founded in 1971. It still exists today According to the organization’s web page, it fights for equal justice and equal opportunity through “litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy.”

By any measure, Julian Bond did a lot more than most people do for what he believed in. That’s inspiration enough.

[Photo by Rodolfo Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images]