Bond, (Horace) Julian

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BOND, (Horace) Julian

(b. 14 January 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee), leader of Atlanta sit-ins and a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who served as SNCC's communications director until his election to the Georgia state legislature.

Bond was the middle of three children born to a distinguished family of African-American educators. His father, Horace Mann Bond, was a college dean and president. His mother, Julia Washington Bond, was a librarian. He grew up in Pennsylvania on the campus of Lincoln University. At age twelve he was enrolled in the George School, where he was one of two African-American students. "I never really lived the life of a southern Negro kid," he observed.

In 1957 the family moved to Atlanta, where Bond attended Morehouse College. In February 1960 Bond helped organize students for lunch-counter sit-ins along the lines of those occurring in Greensboro, North Carolina. Students from Atlanta's black colleges formed the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights. On 15 March 1960 Bond led demonstrators at the City Hall cafeteria. They were arrested and held in jail for ten hours, Bond's only arrest during the 1960s. Rich's department store soon became the students' principal target. Demonstrations continued for nearly eighteen months until Rich's capitulated.

Bond was among 120 protest leaders who gathered at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Easter weekend in 1960. They formed an independent organization to coordinate their movement, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). For the first issue of SNCC's newsletter Bond contributed a poem and an article on the Atlanta sit-ins. He also worked as a reporter for the Atlanta Inquirer.

On 28 July 1961 Bond married Spelman College student Alice Clopton. The next year she delivered their first child. With all his outside interests, Bond's grades suffered. He reflected, "You'd try for a long time to balance school work and this kind of work [protest]. It was something I couldn't balance." In the spring of 1962 he dropped out of college.

James Forman, SNCC's executive secretary, hired Bond as the organization's director of communications. Bond's coworker, Mary King, profiled the young activist in her autobiography, Freedom Song: "Slender, debonair, and six feet one and a half inches tall, Julian had a polish that belied his youth.… Imperturbable and urbane, he had a wry sense of humor."

Bond seldom was found on the front lines at protests. He worked behind the scenes, managing communications with roving organizers and sending stories to contacts in the national press. In his history of SNCC, In Struggle, Clayborne Carson described Bond as "an atypical SNCC worker.… His position in the Atlanta headquarters, coupled with the responsibility of providing for a wife and children, had isolated him from SNCC's field operations. Nonetheless, he was greatly respected within the organization for his dedication and intelligence."

As the pace of movement activity quickened, the scope of Bond's public relations work increased. His job involved "feeding those tapes to radio stations, handouts to reporters, tearing around the South," he recalled, on fast-moving expeditions to local outposts. "SNCC had twenty projects in Mississippi and I'd hit them all in the course of a week and then go into Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Georgia." As a result of these travels Bond was well known within SNCC. When internal ideological conflicts became intense, he remained on good terms with everyone. Mary King recalled, "he almost never took a hard stance or positioned himself on one side or another of any raging SNCC issue; if pushed to speak on a policy issue, he would most likely respond with an observation."

In 1965, with a third child on the way (he and Alice would eventually have five), Bond began looking for a better-paying job. The Georgia legislature had redistricted, and he became a candidate from the 136th legislative district, which represented Atlanta. Utilizing the organizing skills of SNCC volunteers, Bond ran a grassroots campaign emphasizing economic issues. He won the primary and handily defeated his Republican opponent with 82 percent of the vote.

When it came time to take his seat, however, Bond encountered stiffer opposition. Days before the swearing-in ceremony, SNCC issued a statement condemning the Vietnam War and encouraging black men to resist the draft. When asked if he supported the statement, Bond replied, "I concur fully. I would not burn my own draft card, but I admire the courage of those who do." His remarks touched off a firestorm of criticism. The Georgia House voted 184 to 12 to expel him. Bond won in two subsequent special elections. Meanwhile, his lawyers challenged the legislature's action. On 5 December 1966 Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren ordered that Bond be seated.

In August 1968 Bond arrived at the Democratic Convention to challenge the seating of Georgia's mostly white "regular" delegation. The convention voted to give half of the state's seats to Bond's "insurgents." This victory elevated his standing among liberal delegates. He gave a seconding speech for Senator Eugene McCarthy, and his name was placed in nomination for vice president. He received 48.5 votes before withdrawing, noting that he was seven years shy of the constitutionally mandated minimum age of thirty-five.

In 1975 Bond was elected to the Georgia state senate, where he would remain until 1987. In 1986 he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives against his former SNCC colleague, John Lewis, to whom he lost in a bitter run-off election marked by allegations that Bond had used cocaine. Alice, who divorced Bond in 1989, told police that her husband was a cocaine addict but later retracted her statement.

Bond remained active in media projects, including narrating the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) history of the civil rights movement, Eyes on the Prize. He also wrote a syndicated newspaper column and hosted a television program, America's Black Forum. Bond has held academic appointments at Harvard University, American University, and the University of Virginia, among others. In 1998 he was elected chairman of the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

A leader of the sit-in movement who played an important role in SNCC, Bond was at the center of the 1960s freedom struggle. He was also the first of his generation to make the successful transition from protest to electoral politics. As one of the most prominent African-American politicians of the decade, he became a national spokesman for young people disenchanted with the established order.

Three books published in 1971 focus on Bond's early career: George R. Metcalf, Up from Within: Today's New Black Leaders; John Neary, Julian Bond: Black Rebel; and Roger M. Williams, The Bonds: An American Family. Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (1981), places Bond's work within the larger perspective of SNCC and the civil rights movement. Mary King, Freedom Song: A Personal Story of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement (1984), also focuses on SNCC.

Paul T. Murray