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Julian Bond

The Life & Legacy of
Julian Bond

Julian Bond was a leader in American Civil Rights from his college years as a key contributor to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He served in the Georgia legislature, led the NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center, taught at American University, Harvard University, and the University of Virginia, and retained a significant voice in American politics and culture for five decades. Bond’s papers reflect legislative, activist/organizer, and personal perspectives on the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, the Nixon and Reagan administrations, voting rights, equal education, race and class, fair housing, healthcare access, LGBTQ+ rights, and the environmental movement.

Julian Bond as a young child

Bond’s participation in social justice movements is reflected in the extensive scope of the documents he bequeathed to the University of Virginia. Julian Bond’s archival collection contains 11 series, divided by form and topic. The series included in the project are: Speeches and Articles (362 folders), Correspondence (241 folders), Organizations (287 folders), Invitations (107 folders),  Academic Papers (135 folders),  Political Papers (204 folders), Family and Personal Papers (170 folders), and Audiovisual Materials (97 items). Of the 47,000 pages in the collection, all series have basic finding aids except more recently acquired items. The Julian Bond Papers Project will bring Bond’s work to the public for the first time in a free, verified, and comprehensive manner.

Bond’s collection covers his extensive life’s work. Born in Nashville in 1940 to a college president and a librarian, Bond became a public figure as early as his entry to Morehouse college in 1957. By 1960, he had already served as a founding member of the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights and was a writer for the Atlanta Inquirer. Inspired by the Greensboro sit-ins, Bond helped organize over 200 students to protest segregation in Atlanta restaurants, was invited to SNCC’s founding conference, and was asked to serve as SNCC’s Communications Director. Serving for five years, Bond helped surface accurate reporting of racial brutality in the South and significantly altered the way the media covered race in America. Bond’s papers reflect the extensive organizing and networking strategies necessary to achieve these lasting accomplishments.

Julian Bond speaking with a youth

Bond’s 21-year tenure as a Georgia legislator began in 1965 when he was three times unseated to the state House of Representatives. After Bond’s third winning election, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision of Georgia politicians who refused Bond his seat due to his criticism of the Vietnam War. Bond’s papers represent this important legislative history spanning voter rights, election districting, healthcare, affirmative action, abortion, local and national Democratic strategy, and even a considered Presidential campaign.

Finally, Bond served as a leader, speaker, and professor until his death at age 75. Bond led the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Southern Elections Fund, as well as taught Civil Rights courses at various universities. His collection offers insight into political strategies, local organizing, and educational approaches to highly significant social movements in the twentieth century. His work offers blueprints for racial justice and equity in employment, education, healthcare, and political elections, not to mention LGBTQ+ rights, environmental justice, global poverty awareness, America’s role in a global community, and alternatives to militarized economic policy.

Julian Bond bending at car during political campaign

In this first phase of the Julian Bond Papers Project, the project team will transcribe and digitally publish the first set of Bond’s speeches, making accessible a sweeping history of race, social movements, and political activism in the second half of the twentieth century. Beginning in the late 1960s, Bond’s speeches include contemporaneous accounts of the Civil Rights era, perspectives on the emerging war in Vietnam, and strategies for voter registration, community organization, and student protest. Continuing into the 1970s and 1980s, his speeches touch on urban poverty, race and the media, Democratic national politics, healthcare, diversity, and the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Speeches from the 1990s tackle affirmative action, fair housing, flags and symbols, organized labor, and the Million Man March. The final years of Bond’s speeches focus on the crisis in Black education, the role of law in racial activism, abortion rights, and the legacy of the Civil Rights movement. While this series will remain relevant for the foreseeable future, its contents are particularly pertinent to the current political climate with its resurgence of social justice movements like the removal of Confederate symbols, police reform and abolition, voter protections, student and community protest, reproductive freedoms, and grassroots organizing.