Julian Bond (1940-2015): A Personal Note


August 18, 2015I join the Bunche Center in my tribute to one of the finest civil rights leaders of the contemporary era. Julian Bond was a giant figure who championed human rights throughout his long and distinguished life. I had the pleasure of knowing him personally.

As a young civil rights movement activist, I had the good fortune of working with Julian in the office of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in its Atlanta headquarters. He was a striking presence in that office and he exemplified the ideal of encouraging all people, regardless of race, to participate vigorously in the movement to challenge the horrific oppression of racism. He continued on for the remainder of his life in challenging all social and political evils, from the war in Vietnam, to the unjust incarceration of millions of people of color, to the discrimination against gays and lesbians. In 1999, when he was the Bunche Center Thurgood Marshall honoree, I had the honor of introducing Julian in his campus presentation.

He was also a teacher and scholar of distinction. Over the years, I have been privileged to introduce my UCLA students to his co-edited collection of writings in “Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table,” one if the finest sets of primary documents about the struggle for racial justice in the United States. I have also regularly used his perceptive introduction to the book, Strangers and Neighbors: Relations Between Blacks and Jews in the United States. His powerful comments on how both groups, with different histories and cultures, and despite some tensions between them, have a long and common historical bond of struggle. My students from both communities have benefited enormously from Julian’s wisdom.

I celebrate a life that was extremely well lived.

Paul Von Blum

Senior Lecturer in African American Studies and Communication Studies




1 reply
  1. Gary Orfield
    Gary Orfield says:

    I posted this on my Facebook and have heard from many friends about their experiences with and deep admiration for Julian Bond. One of them wrote about how we need to nurture our students to live lives like Julian.

    Julian Bond. It was a great privilege to know Julian Bond and his wife, Pamela. His career in civil rights was, of course, legendary, from the early days in the South with SNCC, to pioneering political leaderahip and candidacy for statewide office and the first African American to be nominated for President. He was one of those who made it imaginable, expanded our country’s possibilities, and opened the door for what would become real in so many aspects of American life. He chaired the NAACP in hard times for the organization and the country and never lost purpose and eloquence. I got to know him at the Civil Rights Project where he was a participant and supporter of our efforts. Time after time, I felt he struck exactly the right note– which he said was often the product of his close collaboration with Pamela. I learned one of his secret weaknesses, for one of the over-the-top hamburgers at Mr. Bartley’s in Harvard Square. His keynote speech at the massive Color Lines conference we sponsored at the Harvard Law School was a great highpoint of this event where more than a hundred new studies were presented, especially when he discussed the political impasse in civil rights caused by one national party that was “shameless” and the other which often was “spineless.” A very good man who kept the faith in racial justice, with full knowledge of the barriers and the major backward movements after the civil rights revolution. He would not accept that this was the best we could do. He will be remembered and his words and deeds are a treasure for our society.
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