Julian Bond, a Georgia native whose civil rights activism touched lives across the United States, died Saturday night in Fort Walton Beach. He was 75.
Bond was an early organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He was one of several African-Americans elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, but white members of the Georgia House refused to seat him, citing Bond’s advocacy for nonviolence in Vietnam as evidence of disloyalty. Bond’s case eventually reached the United States Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously that the Georgia House had denied him his freedom of speech. The Court ordered the Georgia House to seat Bond, who went on to serve four terms in the Georgia House of Representatives and six terms in the Georgia Senate.
Julian Bond spoke on numerous occasions in Florida, encouraging young people to vote and remain vigilant in the pursuit of equality. In 1971, he and fellow SNCC organizer John Lewis toured Florida on behalf of the Voter Education Project to encourage minority voters to participate in the political process. Bond and Lewis visited nine urban centers from Tallahassee to Homestead, urging their listeners to use the power of the ballot to make their voices heard. Bond followed up the visit with other voter registration drives over the years. “The political process is inescapable in this country,” he said during one event in St. Petersburg in 1977. “You’re all born into it. And you’re in it until you die.”
The following video is taken from a 1978 edition of the WFSU-TV program “Vibrations,” in which Bond describes some of the challenges of tackling civil rights issues as a state senator. Footage from one of Bond’s Florida speeches is included.
More recently, in 2013, Julian Bond attended a rally of the “Dream Defenders,” whose members had just ended their occupation of the first floor of the Florida Capitol as a protest against Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. “I say to the young people here, you’re ending a protest because you started a movement,” Bond said at the time.
Looking for more information on Julian Bond and his work? Look for these and other books at your local public library, or at the State Library of Florida in Tallahassee:
Julian Bond, Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Celebration of the Negro National Anthem (2000).
Julian Bond, NAACP: Celebrating a Century – 100 Years in Pictures (2009).
Arthur E. Thomas, Like It Is: Arthur E. Thomas Interviews Leaders on Black America (1981).