A Founder and a Firebrand

The nation and the world are mourning the passing of civil-rights activist Julian Bond, who died on Saturday in Florida at age 75. Brought up in an intellectual family, he was a skinny, witty, articulate young man when he helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, in 1960, traveling around the south to organize civil-rights and voter-registration drives.

Julian Bond, in youth

Julian Bond, in youth

He interrupted his education at Morehouse College to participate in the crucial years of the civil-rights movement, then returned to school in 1971. With Morris Dees, he co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama. He later served as chairman of the NAACP and taught at American University and at the University of Virginia.

In 1965, Bond – who had been vocal in his opposition to the Vietnam War – was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act. The chamber tried to bar his entry as a lawmaker on grounds he had opposed the war. Although a U.S. District Court supported the Georgia House in the dispute, ultimately in 1966 the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the House to seat Bond, saying its grounds for barring him violated his free-speech rights. He went on to serve four terms in the Georgia House and six terms in the Georgia Senate.

He was also nominated in 1968 for vice president of the United States – becoming the first African American to be so nominated – at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. He was, however, too young to serve under the limits set by the U.S. Constitution. Bond later ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress.

Julian Bond appears in many of the Library’s major civil-rights collections, including the NAACP Papers, the SNCC Collection and the American Folklife Center’s Civil Rights History Project Collection. A poet and author, he also narrated the prize-winning public television documentary “Eyes on the Prize.” He supported same-sex marriage rights.

Here, he narrates the introduction to the current Library of Congress exhibition, “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom.”



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