One of the giants of our era has passed. Legislator, writer, poet, television commentator and university professor, Julian Bond was most of all an activist for justice and peace. He was an early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil rights movement, served as chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was a co-founder the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Like many others in the freedom movement Bond understood the link between the struggle for civil rights in America and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. He and other members of SNCC opposed the war and refused to serve in the military.
Bond became famous nationally in 1966 when he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives but was barred from taking his seat because of his antiwar stance. Another election was called in the district and Bond ran and won again, but still he was barred from serving. He ran a third time and won yet again, and finally was able to take his seat after a ruling in his favor by the U.S. Supreme Court. He served in the state legislature for twenty years.
In 1967 Bond wrote and published a SNCC comic book entitled Vietnam. The remarkable document provides an insightful analysis of the injustice and racism of the war. It holds up well after all these years. You can access it here (thanks to The Sixties Project).
I corresponded with Bond over the years but never met him in person until just a couple months ago in Washington DC. Bond participated in and helped to sponsor the conference, “Vietnam. The Power of Protest,” which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the U.S. military escalation in Vietnam and the beginning of antiwar protest.
The “The Power of Protest” conference included an event at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. It was one of the last times Bond spoke in public. His remarks that day focused on Dr. King’s famous 1967 speech against the Vietnam War and included this quote: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Prophetic words then that remain relevant today.
Bond’s last statement, sent to colleagues just before he died, urged support for the Iran nuclear deal.
He was one of our country’s most important leaders for justice and peace. He will be sorely missed.