Bond, Horace

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Horace Bond

born november 8, 1904
nashville, tennessee

died december 21, 1972
atlanta, georgia

college professor, administrator

Horace Mann Bond, 1904–1972">

"Horace Bond's mother named him in honor of Horace Mann's—the great Massachusetts educational reformer and abolitionist—antislavery activities."

wayne j. urban in his 1992 book black scholar: horace mann bond, 1904–1972

Horace Bond was an extraordinary black American scholar and college administrator, dedicated to improving education for black Americans. He was determined and brilliant, not afraid to challenge long-held ideas. Bond rose to prominence during the Great Depression. During his career he authored several books and nearly one hundred articles on various black education topics in academic journals and popular magazines. He is most noted for two classic books on black education published during the Great Depression: The Education of the Negro in the American Social Order (1934) and Negro Education in Alabama: A Study in Cotton and Steel (1936). Both books dealt with the poor condition of black education in public schools and colleges. Besides working for improvement in black education, Bond was also active in the civil rights movement of the 1950s.

An education background

Horace Mann Bond was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to a minister father and a schoolteacher mother. The Bond family placed a high value on education and produced a number of scholars as well as civil rights leaders. Bond's grandmother, a former slave, had raised two sons, each of whom earned college degrees. Three of Bond's four siblings also earned college degrees and had professional careers. While he was still very young, Bond's mother would take him to school with her so she could mind him while she taught her classes. He soon began following along with the lessons and learned to read by age three.

While Bond was growing up, black schools were greatly underfunded. The teachers were poorly prepared and poorly supported. Average education spending for black students was considerably less than half of the amount provided for white students. In addition, black schools focused more on vocational training. In general, whites in the United States believed that black Americans were intellectually inferior. Therefore, offering blacks more academic school programs seemed unnecessary.

At an early age Bond began showing he was gifted in academics. He began high school at age nine. After attending a one-room schoolhouse, Bond was educated at secondary schools associated with colleges and universities. He entered college at Lincoln University in 1919 at age fourteen. At that time few blacks had the opportunity for a college education. Established in 1854 in southeastern Pennsylvania, Lincoln was the first black college in the world, but like most black colleges, Lincoln had an all-white faculty. Bond participated in many student activities, and he was the editor of the student literary magazine and president of the school's athletic association. He graduated in 1923 when he was only eighteen years old.

Establishing a career

Bond attended graduate school at the University of Chicago in Illinois, majoring in education. To pay for his school expenses he worked at a series of teaching jobs. He also left school at times to make money and then would return to resume his studies. First he worked as director of the School of Education at Langston University, the black state college for Oklahoma. During this time Bond tackled the issue of educational testing. The common interpretation of the lower scores recorded for blacks on national "intelligence" tests was that black Americans were intellectually inferior to whites. Bond set out to prove that the lower test results were not due to lack of learning ability but to the limited educational opportunities available for black students. In June 1924 Bond published an article titled "Intelligence Tests and Propaganda" in The Crisis, the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The article emphasized the need for increased funding for education in black communities. After working at Langston, Bond became director of the education extension program for Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Montgomery, the black state college for Alabama. Bond trained Alabama primary and secondary schoolteachers.

In 1928 Bond's developing career in education took him to Fisk University, a highly respected black college in Nashville, Tennessee. There he was an assistant professor and research assistant before becoming chairman of the education department. At Fisk Bond met his future wife, and they married in October 1930. During his time at Fisk, Bond published many articles promoting equality for black education. The articles appeared in leading black publications such as the Journal of Negro Education published by Howard University and in nationally circulated magazines such as Harper's and the Nation. Bond's most important publication during this time was the 1934 book The Education of the Negro in the American Social Order. This book continued Bond's theme that poor funding of black schools affected the quality of education for black Americans. In the book Bond also presented recommendations on how to improve black education. The publication was considered a major contribution to the study of black education in America and influenced black educators for decades. While at Fisk, Bond had become a recognized national authority on black education.

During his years at Langston and Fisk, Bond had continued work on his graduate degree program through the University of Chicago. For his research topic Bond focused on the importance of economic and social factors influencing education; he concentrated his study on the development of public education in Alabama. He finally received his doctoral degree in education in 1936. The book that resulted from his doctoral research, Negro Education in Alabama: A Study in Cotton and Steel, provided a detailed look at the economic, political, and social factors influencing black public school education in the South. Bond showed that a drop in the number of black schools during the Depression was not because blacks lacked interest, but because school boards dominated by whites had funneled the shrinking school budgets primarily toward white schools. He showed that exceptional black students could be produced by well-financed and well-administered black schools and that poor educational performance was related to poverty, not natural ability. Therefore, he advocated equal funding for black schools and white schools.

An administrator

Owing to the pronounced racial segregation (separation of black Americans and white Americans in public places such as stores, schools, and restaurants) in the United States at the time, Bond, like other noted black scholars, did not receive any offers to teach at white universities upon finishing his graduate work. With scholarly positions closed to him, he followed a path into administration of black colleges. In September 1936 Bond was selected as academic dean at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dillard was a new college created by merging two older ones. Bond worked there for three years before returning to Fisk as chairman of the education department. In 1939 he was selected to be president of Fort Valley State College in Georgia, a training college for rural schoolteachers. Under Bond's leadership this small junior college became a full-fledged four-year college. In 1945 Bond became the first black president at Lincoln University, his alma mater (a school one has attended) and one of the best black colleges in the nation. The prestigious position put Bond in the national spotlight.

Though Bond would spend twelve years at Lincoln, it was not a completely positive experience. Since he was the first black president of the long-established institution, Bond had to break down racial barriers. He enthusiastically built an African studies program at Lincoln, a program that was unpopular with other administrators and faculty at the school. He even journeyed to British West Africa in 1949 and several more times after that, establishing connections with Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia. Soon, 10 percent of Lincoln's student body was African. In 1956 Bond also organized the American Society of African Culture (AMSAC).

Schooling for Black Americans during the Depression

The United States was racially segregated in the early twentieth century, which meant black students and white students attended separate public schools. Even before the Great Depression began, most black Americans were already living in poverty. Their schools had low-quality facilities, and their teachers received little training and low salaries.

Though many schools in affluent white communities survived the worst years of the Depression with few problems, the Depression all but eliminated budgets for most black schools. Influenced by a belief that black students were incapable of higher learning, school boards, especially those in the Southern states, refused to fund black education. This widespread belief was accepted without question by most whites in the 1930s. As a result, the combined barriers of poverty and racism kept black education at woefully inadequate levels. Annual funding for black education was only 15 to 20 percent of the amount given to white schools. In Alabama, the Alabama State Agricultural and Mechanical Institute, a school for blacks, received only $40,000 a year, whereas Auburn Polytechnic Institute, a white school, received $635,000.

Because of the meager funding for black education, black families had to pool their limited resources to finance and build local schools. Those who did not have any money donated labor, helping build and maintain the tiny schoolhouses. At least half of the schools had no desks, only rickety benches and a wood-burning stove. The typical schoolhouse was a crude shack built out of scrap lumber, with daylight easily visible through the walls. Sometimes newspapers were tacked on the walls to keep the wind out. Rain often poured through the roof. By 1932, more than 3,400 schools had been built in 880 Southern counties. Virtually all the schools were elementary schools.

The few black high schools in the South were in cities. Almost half of black Americans did not go beyond the fifth grade. In 1932, 230 Southern counties had no high school for black students. Most black high schools were vocational. They rarely taught traditional academic subjects such as literature, history, or math. Instead, they taught carpentry, bricklaying, and auto mechanics. Vocational education aimed to prepare black Americans for low-paying positions in the industrial work-place. The Depression, however, soon eliminated even those jobs.

During the early 1950s Bond also served as historian for the NAACP in their legal battle against school segregation. Bond prepared background information for the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Court struck down racial segregation in public schools. Bond also joined students in antisegregation demonstrations in the local communities. Because of these activities Lincoln's board of trustees, alumni, and faculty felt that Bond was neglecting some important duties of his administrative position. As a result, Bond's popularity sharply declined by 1956.

In 1957 Bond left Lincoln to become dean of the School of Education at Atlanta University. After ten years as dean, he became director of the university's Bureau of Educational Research. Bond retired in 1971 and died only a year later.

During their forty-two-year marriage the Bonds had three children. One of Bond's children, Julian Bond, became highly involved in the 1960s civil rights movement and served in the Georgia legislature for over twenty years, from 1965 to 1986. He also became president of the newly formed Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971, and in 1998 he became chairman of the NAACP. Julian was also on the staff of the American University in Washington, D.C., and a member of the history department at the University of Virginia in 2000.

For More Information

bond, horace m. the education of the negro in the american social order. 1934. reprint, new york, ny: octagon books, 1966.

bond, horace m. negro education in alabama: a study in cotton and steel. 1936. reprint, tuscaloosa, al: university of alabama press, 1994.

neary, john. julian bond: black rebel. new york, ny: william morrow, 1971.

urban, wayne j. black scholar: horace mann bond, 1904–1972. athens, ga: university of georgia press, 1992.

williams, roger m. the bonds: an american family 1971. new york, ny: atheneum, 1971.