Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

Civil rights activist Julian Bond was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in January 1940. When he was five years old, his father, Dr. Horace Mann Bond, was named the first Black president of Lincoln University, Chester County, the country’s oldest private African American college. Bond’s family lived on the campus of Lincoln University until 1957, when Dr. Bond was appointed dean of the school of education at Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Julian Bond graduated from the George School, a co­educational Quaker school in Bucks County in 1957, after which he entered Morehouse College, Atlanta. While a student at Morehouse, Bond helped establish a literary magazine, The Pegasus, and served as an intern for Time. While still a student he was a founder, in 1960, of the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (COHAR), Atlanta University’s student civil rights organization that directed three years of nonviolent anti-segregation protests, which won integration of the city’s movie theaters, lunch counters, and parks. He was first arrested for taking part in a sit-in at Atlanta City Hall’s segregated cafeteria.

Bond was one of several hundred students from across the South who helped organize the Student Non­violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) it1 1960, not long after which he became its communications director, heading the organization’s printing and publicity departments and editing its newsletter, The Student Voice. He also worked in voter registration drives in rural Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

He left Morehouse College in 1961, just one semester shy of graduation, to join the staff of a new newspaper, The Atlanta Inquirer. He later became the newspaper’s managing editor. Ten years later he returned to More­house College and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in English.

In 1965, Bond was elected to a one year term in Geor­gia’s House of Representatives in a special election following a court-ordered reapportionment of the state legislature, but members of the House voted not to seat him because of his outspoken opposition to the war in Vietnam. He won a second election, to fill his vacant seat, the following year, and again members of the House voted to bar him from membership. Bond won a third election, this time for a term of two years, in November 1966. In December, the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Georgia’s House of Represen­tatives had violated Bond’s rights in refusing to seat him.

Julian Bond was elected to Georgia’s state senate in 1974. He served six successive terms, during which he became the first African American to chair the Fulton County Senate Delegation, the body’s largest and most diverse. He also chaired the senate’s Committee on Con­sumer Affairs, and served as a member of its Human Resources, Governmental Operations, and Children and Youth committees.

During his service in the state legislature, Bond sponsored or co-sponsored more than sixty bills that became law, including a pioneer sickle cell anemia testing program and a statewide program providing low-interest home loans to low-income Georgians. When he left of­fice in 1987 – ending his tenure only when an unsuccessful congressional race prevented him from seeking re­election to the state senate – he had been elected to public office more than any Black Georgian, living or dead.

Julian Bond holds honorary degrees from fourteen colleges and universities, including Lincoln University. He returned to the campus of Lincoln University in May 1992 as keynote speaker for the fifteenth annual Conference on Black History in Pennsylvania, entitled “Empowerment: Perspectives on African American History in Pennsylvania.” Conducted since 1978 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the conferences explore various aspects of the Keystone State’s African American heritage and culture.

This essay is based on the address given by the civil rights leader during the 1992 event.


About African influences in America, Temple University professor Brenda Dixon wrote: “As a culture existing within a culture for so long, the Afro-centric web of influence in America is a tangled mass of intricate relationships, both voluntary and involuntary, both con­cealed and obvious. Many instances of the relationship have been shrouded-sometimes inadvertently, but all too frequently with malicious intent.”

Dixon, whose remarks appeared in the April 28, 1992, edition of the Village Voice, was writing about dance, but she might well have been describing American society as a whole.

The study of Black history – in Pennsylva­nia and throughout the United States – is an attempt to unravel and explain that “tangled mass,” to establish cause and effect in its connected tissues, and to assign responsibil­ity, credit and, sometimes, blame for our common past and uncertain futures.

Scholarship exploring the African Ameri­can experience – with topics ranging from racial confrontation to sports, from civil rights to symphonic music – can help untangle and explain the past. It can do so both by revisiting the familiar places and by looking into new ones, by trying to discover the hidden message in secret, coded writing­ – messages behind the web which will tell us who we are. In examining these fibers and, perhaps, coincidental connections and hidden corners in this nebulous network, we may suggest routes that historians and other scholars might follow to illumi­nate the past and explain the present. What follows, then, is a scattered survey of topics for future exploration, some old and some new, some moments in the membrane that connects us all.

My web stretches from the campus to the town, from Lincoln University to Philadelphia, from Pennsylvania to Alabama, from the classroom to the courtroom, from African America to Africa, and from rhythm and blues to rock and roll.

If the modern movement for civil rights traces its beginning to the United States Supreme Court’s 1954 decision to integrate public schools, that decision had some of its roots on the campus of Chester County’s Lincoln University, chartered one hundred years earlier, on April 29, 1854, as the Ashmun Institute.

Surely something at Lincoln University helped to shape young Thurgood Marshall’s mind and character, leading eventually to his life’s work as an attorney and first Black appointed, in 1967, to the Supreme Court. As a college student, Marshall could not have known that another Lincoln man, my father, Dr. Horace Mann Bond, would conduct the research underpinning his successful assault on separate and unequal education. And neither Marshall nor my father could have known that one of Marshall’s classmates, Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, would become the first prime minister of Africa’s largest nation, Nigeria. Nor could either of them have predicted that Azikiwe would urge Kwame Nkrumah, who became the first prime minister of independent Ghana, to seek his education at this small rural college, which my father described in Education for Freedom: A History of Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, as “the first institution founded anywhere in the world to provide a higher education in the arts and sciences for ‘youth of African descent.'”

No one in Lincoln University’s class of 1930, not even Marshall and Azikiwe, could have imagined that the rush for freedom in Africa would complement and encourage the rush toward freedom in the United States, that events and personalities overseas would dictate and influence events and personalities here. Surely something in the classroom and on the campus refined each man’s conviction that his education here was to help achieve freedom. What association, if any, did the two men have? What after-hour discussions, what campus event, what outside force helped to direct the African American from Baltimore and the African from Nigeria toward their destinies? Students of gender politics might ask if Lincoln’s single-sex education – yesterday’s rule rather than today’s exception­ – provided some extra stimulus to the sons of the Orange and Blue?

Can an argument be made that the elite, segregated college in yesterday’s more rigidly segregated system produced a more race-conscious graduate than today? There is no biography of Thurgood Marshall that tells us what role – if any – Lincoln University played in producing or molding him, or whether he and his classmates were inculcated with a greater sense of responsibility to become agents of change than generations which followed them.

The roots of this tangled web go even deeper.

Lincoln’s founder was the Rev. John Miller Dickey, born in 1806 while Thomas Jefferson served as president of the United States. Three decades earlier, Jefferson had written and signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. Thirteen years before Dickey was born, his soon-to-be father-in-law, John Miller, had worked with another signer of the Declaration, Dr. Samuel Rush, to save Philadelphians in the frightful yellow fever epidemic of 1793. Two of Miller’s helpers were Black: Richard Allen, the founder, a year later, of the African Methodist Episco­pal Church, and Absalom Jones, consecrated as the first Black Episcopal priest in America.

So more than one hundred and sixty years before a Lincoln University graduate made segregation illegal and nearly one hundred and seventy years before a nonviolent army rose in the American South to challenge its morality, Blacks and whites together worked in Pennsylvania in common cause.

We see Richard Allen’s and Absalom Jones’ work everywhere in our past and present. We live today in a world struggling to live up to Thomas Jefferson’s words, to the promises he and Dr. Benjamin Rush signed in Philadelphia so long ago. What are we to make of this conjunction between one of America’s founding fathers and the founders of Black America’s tradition of socially involved religion?

That nonviolent movement’s most prominent leader was Martin Luther King, Jr., who received his early theological education a few miles from Lincoln University at Crozier Theological Semi­nary in Chester, Delaware County. He found friends nearby – the Rev. J. Pius Barbour, pastor of Chester’s Calvary Baptist Church, and the Rev. William H. Gray, Jr., of Philadelphia’s Bright Hope Baptist Church. He wrote his mother that he had met “a fine chick” in Philadelphia and dated an Atlanta schoolmate then studying at Temple University. He told his mother she had “gone wild over the old boy.” He also found the North provided no escape from racism; with a classmate and two women friends, he was denied service at a tavern in Woodbridge, New Jersey.

After receiving a bachelor of divinity degree from Crozier Theological Seminary, King began work towards a doctorate from Boston University. With his doctoral work nearly completed, he answered a call from a church in Montgomery, Alabama, during a Christmas vacation in 1953. While King was considering the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church offer and others he had been given, another young minister – like King, a rising star in his denomination – accepted a position in Pennsylvania as acting minister of his church. His name was Malcolm X. Malcolm Little had been converted to Islam while a prisoner in a jail a few miles away from King’s Boston University classrooms. In March 1954, he took over the Philadelphia Temple of the Islam.

King accepted the job in Montgomery in April; two weeks later in a distant place few Americans had ever heard of, Dien Bien Phu, the forces of French colonialism were overthrown. Two weeks after the French fell in Indochina, Thurgood Marshall won his biggest legal victory: state-sanctioned segregation fell here at home. The U. S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were against the law.

The Supreme Court’s action in Washington and the end of French colonial domination of Vietnam set free forces that would change (and still continue to change) the face of the United States. The United States had argued in 1954 that continued school segregation at home weakened American diplomacy overseas. In Cold War competition in the Third World, America’s racial climate was a potent weapon. The Supreme Court’s decision in 1954 provided the United States with a propaganda message it could trumpet around the world, but when Americans replaced the French as guardians of Western interests in Vietnam, they began to lose whatever advantage they had won. The tangled web drew tighter.

Black youngsters in the mid-1950s, not immediately affected by the Supreme Court or the French defeat, got an early warning about how deadly racism really was. Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was kidnapped, castrated, and lynched for speaking to a white woman in Mississippi. Jet magazine showed us his water-swollen corpse. I was one year older than Till and thought: this could happen to me.

A year after King arrived in Montgomery and only ninety­-five days after Emmett Till was lynched, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus. Within days, young Martin Luther King, Jr., found himself quoting statesman – and slave holder – Thomas Jefferson to justify a city-wide bus boycott by the children and grandchil­dren of slaves, an exercise in community-wide self-help that would last for more than a year. He also found a life-long friend, Bayard Rustin from West Chester, Pennsylvania, who gave King instruction in nonviolence, wrote his speeches, and planned the organization of the civil rights group King would head until he was murdered fourteen years later.

While King organized the boycott in Montgomery, Malcolm X organized Muslim Temples in Pittsburgh and King’s home town of Atlanta. He had been paroled from prison in August 1952, as King was entering his second year at Boston University. He became Minister of Temple Number 7 in New York three months before King began his fuJl-time ministry at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. James Cone has written eloquently of these two representatives of the broad streams of Black American thought, of the nightmare and the dream, of the ways in which they complement each other. The task for future scholars is to do for Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam what historians have done for King: to critique the organization as well as the man. There are organizational histories of King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and two prize-winning biographies of King himself. There are organizational histories of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Curiously enough, there is no modern history of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and no major study since C. Eric Lincoln’s Black Muslims in America, published in 1961, has tried to describe the influence of the Nation of Islam on the larger Black struggle into which it fits.

In 1956, Rustin and King met with a Washington lawyer with deep roots in Alabama. Harris Wofford had been the first white student at Howard University Law School since suffragettes had attended Thurgood Marshall’s graduate alma mater in the 1910s. Wofford and Rustin helped arrange for King and his wife, Coretta, to visit India, but their first trip abroad was to Africa in March 1957 to attend the inauguration of Kwame Nkrumah, Lincoln University class of 1939, as Prime Minister of Ghana.

It was in Ghana that King met Vice President Richard Milhouse Nixon.

Three years later in 1960, Nixon had a right to expect that his presidential campaign would receive the lion’s share of Black votes. Sixty percent of African American voters had chosen the Republican candi­date in 1956. John Kennedy was Black America’s least favored Democratic candidate in 1960; he had little civil rights record. Nixon did, but when King was arrested a few days before election day and sent to a dangerous state prison in Georgia, the election arithmetic began to change. Both candi­dates were asked for their response. Nixon had none. Brothers John F. and Robert F. Kennedy expressed their concern in telephone calls to King’s wife Coretta. The sentencing judge, Harris Wofford, made sure Black America knew the difference.

With Kennedy campaign staff member Louis Martin, Wofford set up a dummy campaign committee head­quartered in Philadelphia whose co-chairmen were the Rev. Marshall L. Shepherd and King’s friend from his Crozier Theological Seminary days, the Rev. William H. Gray. They distributed thousands of copies of a blue leaflet that compared “No Comment Nixon” to the “candidate with a heart, Senator Kennedy.” By election day, a massive shift had occurred in Black America. The sixty percent of Black votes that the Republicans had won in 1956 shrank, by half, to thirty percent in only four years. The votes for Kennedy were his margin of victory in key states, including Pennsylvania, and the presidency went to the “candidate with a heart.”

Much has been made of President Kennedy’s dependence on Black votes in 1960 and his failure to deliver on the civil rights promises of his campaign, but little has been written about the relationship between Martin Luther King, Jr., and Vice President Richard M. Nixon. Nixon’s memoirs report that King’s companion, the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, told the vice president that he and King had voted for the Republican Party’s candidates in 1956. Was this the influence of King’s father, a Republican, or antipathy toward the Democratic nominee, Adlai E. Stevenson?

Events – such as John F. Kennedy’s election – which seem to me to have taken place only yesterday are far enough removed in the national consciousness to celebrate as ancient anniversa­ries now. In 1993, America noted the twenty-fifth anniversaries of the Tet Offensive, of chaos at the 1968 Chicago convention and Columbia University, of the Orangeburg Massacre, and of the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. It was a year that also marked the thirtieth anniversaries of the March on Washington and the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy.

For the freedom movement which spans these dates there remains an enormous untold story, an untangled web. In Pennsylvania, and throughout America, this spidery web stretches to connect even more names and places.

There is a connection between the 1905 Niagara Falls meeting convened by Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, from which the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People grew, and the contro­versial Barnes Collection, which Lincoln University now controls. The connection is Black militancy.

In 1946, my father was a speaker at the funeral of Philadelphia physician Nathan F. Mossell. Dr. Mossell had attended the Niagara Falls Conference and was a founder of the Philadelphia NAACP. He was a 1879 graduate of Lincoln University and the first Black graduate of the medical school of the University of Pennsylva­nia. He had sworn never to set foot on Lincoln University’s campus until the board and faculty were integrated. In fact, he was as responsible as anyone for my father’s employment as the university’s first Black president.

When the speakers were lining up to enter the pulpit at Dr. Mossell’s funeral, Albert Barnes, the collection’s colorful creator, warned my father not to speak too long. “I’ve never yet seen a Negro preacher who could limit his remarks to five minutes!” he said. My father told Dr. Barnes he was not a preacher and he could limit his remarks. My father proved right on both points. Dr. Barnes invited him to a lunch of milk and crackers at his home in Merion, a proper address along Philadelphia’s affluent and socially correct Main Line.

“By this time,” my father wrote in an unpublished memoir, “I had learned that Dr. “Barnes was the wealthy art collector, whom it was my presidential duty to cultivate. Besides, I presumed this was just a millionaire’s little joke, and that Dr. Barnes was really inviting me to a feast.”

He was wrong. The lunch was milk and crackers. But from 1949 on, the doors of the foundation’s priceless art collection were opened to the faculty and students of Lincoln University.

In 1950, Albert Barnes changed his will to revoke the clause which gave the University of Pennsylvania and the venerable Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) power to name trustees and put Lincoln University in their place. Was it the capricious spite of a lifelong eccentric spurned by the Philadelphia art establishment which placed this bonanza in Lincoln’s hands? Or was it the result of a life time of interest by Barnes in Black America, an interest which he described as beginning when he was eight years old. He had attended a Black camp meeting in Merchantville, New Jersey. “The impression was so vivid and deep that it has influenced my whole life,” Barnes said years later. Barnes’ concern for his African American employees led to the formation of factory classes in art appreciation; later expanded, these classes became the basis of the Barnes Foundation’s educational program. In addition to forging a relationship with Lincoln University, Barnes also offered patronage to African American artists.

Albert Barnes and his foundation remain controver­sial long after his death. Did opposition to him in Philadel­phia’s social circles grow because of his fondness for Black music and art? Why did Philadelphia’s district attorney strive so hard to open the Barnes Foundation to greater public use, while ignoring racial and sexual segregation at Girard College?

When I was growing up on Lincoln’s campus, the new medium of television was rapidly shrinking our world. When the first family in that small community bought a set, we eagerly solicited – and accepted! – their invitation to visit on Saturday or Sw1day evenings to see The Colgate Palmolive Comedy Hour or The Ed Sullivan Show. If Black performers were scheduled to appear – the Will Mastin Trio (featuring Sammy Davis, Jr.), Nat “King” Cole, Eartha Kitt­ – the word went out on the campus grapevine and we gathered eagerly to see Black faces appear in black and white.

By 1954, twenty-nine million homes in the United States had television sets, and mine was one of them. There were only a few teenagers living on Lincoln’s campus, and if I wanted to dance with a girl who wasn’t my sister, I had to go to Philadel­phia. But there was a magical television show from Philadelphia, hosted by a man named Bob Horn, that catered just to teenagers like me. It was called Bandstand, and it featured teenagers from South Philadelphia, most of them Italian American, dancing to the top hits of the day. A young disc jockey named Dick Clark replaced Bob Horn 1956; in August 1957, the show became American Bandstand and broadcast nationally by NBC. Occasion­ally, only occasionally, a Black couple would appear.

But Black music always did. We heard Fats Domino’s Ain’t That A Shame, Chuck Berry’s Maybellene, Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti. We saw Billy Williams, Lee Andrews and the Hearts, The Rays, Jackie Wilson, Johnnie Mathis, the 5 Satins, Chuck Berry, and Sam Cooke. However, our attention was drawn to the dancers, Arlene Sullivan and Ken Rossi, and Justine Carelli and Bob Clayton. For a teenager riding a rural bus route to a one­room school with an outhouse, these young people represented everything that was big city, sophisticated, hip, cool, and correct!

We imitated their dance steps, copied their clothes, and mimicked their walk. We recognized in the music a message of racial and generational change that white young people felt too. “Even packaged for mass consumption,” Todd Gitlin wrote, “American Bandstand rolled over Beethoven and insisted rock and roll was here to stay, out in the suburbs and small towns where flesh and blood Blacks did not tread.” Although few remember, Blacks danced on American Bandstand, too.

In September 1957, another set of teenagers seized my attention – and the hearts and minds of millions of other young Black teenagers.

They were the Little Rock Nine – Ernie Greene, Minnie Jean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford and six other brave young­sters – who faced angry mobs daily to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School. With these youngsters, it wasn’t Bandstand‘s flashy clothes­ – pegged pants and poodle skirts, rat killer shoes and Capezios – or fancy haircuts­ – DAs or Duck Tails for the boys and flips and bubbles for the girls – that drew our attention. It was raw courage, bravery, and self-assurance. Within weeks, through television and the Black press, we soon knew everything about them.

Ernie Greene, who gradu­ated from Central High School in 1958, was the oldest and the most mature member of the group. Minnie Jean Brown was the baddest – when white students hit her, she hit back. She once overturned a bowl of chili on a white boy’s head.

When a girl called her a name, she retorted: “White trash!” We agonized with Minnie Jean, glad she was bold enough to never take anything, but frightened that her boldness could get her expelled. In the end it did, and she finished high school in New York.

But it was Elizabeth Eckford who made the greatest impres­sion on me. On the first day she was to attend Central High, Elizabeth missed the telephone call that arranged for a meeting before school. She arrived, all alone, to face a mob of screaming harridans. Those who have seen the acclaimed PBS television broadcast of Eyes On The Prize have seen Elizabeth Eckford. She’s wearing a shirt-waist dress, carrying her school books cradled in her arms. She has on dark glasses. She’s walking slowly through the crowd while detractors scream at her. Their faces are con­torted with hate and rage. Her face shows no emotion and the dark glasses hide her eyes. A middle-aged white woman steps from the crowd and puts her arm around Elizabeth’s shoulder and takes her to a bus stop bench.

I saw Elizabeth’s mother later on television in my home. She said that when Elizabeth came home from school that day her dress was so wet with spit she could wring it out.

So wet with spit she could wring it out! How many times, I wondered, would how many people have to spit how much to achieve that result? If this little girl – she was two years younger than me – can do that, I thought, surely there is something I can do.

Elizabeth Eckford and Ernie Greene and Minnie Jean Brown became my new heroes. The boys and girls of American Band­stand faded away. The Little Rock Nine set a new standard of behavior for my generation. Young Black people would never be the same.

The generation of Black college students who made the 1960 student civil rights movement have in their common pasts Emmett Till and the Little Rock Nine. In inter­view after interview, they recall his death and their bravery as motivators for their actions in the years that followed. The sit­-in leaders of 1960 are the spiritual cousins of Emmett Till and the Little Rock Nine.

Few scholars have made the connection between the cultural revolution that was occurring in the late 1950s along all – a revolution whose cutting edge was Black music, the infusion of musical fat back and greens into white bread and mayonnaise, the introduction of excitement, sensuality and soul into sterile living rooms, and the political revolution that followed. In 1957, Norman Mailer published an essay, “The White Negro,” describing a white “philosophi­cal psychopath” in revolt against mainstream America, whose chief inspiration was the jazz music and uninhibited sensuality of Black Americans.

The real “White Negro” then was the young and daring Elvis Presley. His inspiration wasn’t Charlie Parker or Miles Davis, but Big Boy Crudup and Big Mama Thornton. He listened constantly to radio station WDIA, the South’s first radio station with a Southwide Black audience. He plastered Royal Crown Pomade in his hair, and bought his clothes at Lansky’s on Memphis’ Beale Street, where the local Black pimps and players bought their threads. His “gabardine slacks with hot pink or lime green inlets to match his equally iridescent jackets and slacks, plus Mr. B. low collared shirts … with the collar turned up” made Elvis Presley a markedly different figure from his white Memphis schoolmates. His were the uniforms of Black outlaws, just as the zoot suit was the uniform of an earlier generation in the mid-1940s.

Clothing ought not be overlooked by scholars as an opposi­tional statement. It is today for Amish families in Pennsylvania and for B-boys and wanna-be B-boys all across the country. Blue jeans and denim workshirts were for young civil rights workers in the 1960s. And pimp clothes were for Elvis Presley in 1957.

Conversely, fue performer able to speak most effectively to white teenagers was Chuck Berry, whose songs told tales about the urban, post-war teenage experience, about cars and school and romance. With Maybellene in 1955, Roll Over, Beethoven in 1956, School Days and Rock and Roll Music in 1957, and Sweet Little Sixteen and Johnny B. Goode in 1958, Berry was the first Black rock and roll guitar hero. He defined Black music for white America, so much so that when young Bruce Springsteen’s band was appearing as back-up for Berry and asked him what they should play, Berry replied, “Just play some Chuck Berry music!”

Chuck Berry on the Black side and Elvis Presley on the white side – and many, many more – with American Band­stand as a conduit helped teenagers in the late 1950s understand that they belonged to a subculture based on their youth, and that theirs was the music of rebellion rock and roll, the homogenized music of Black America, rhythm and blues. Presley and Berry sounded the call to arms; American Bandstand was, according to Richard Aquila, author of That Old Time Rock and Roll, “the daily meeting of their (peer) group.”

Scratch a white participant in the student rebellions of the tumultuous sixties and you will find a Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley fan, someone who spent his or her after­-school hours watching Justine and Bob dance to Roll Over, Beethoven and Teddy Bear. Culture can be a location – not a substitute – for struggles for power. It is, in the words of George Lipsitz, “a form of politics, as a means of reshap­ing individual and collective practice for specified interests, and as long as individuals perceive their interests as unfilled, culture retains an opposi­tional potential.”

One final thought on culture. When Philadelphia’s most famous modern son, Bill Cosby, began his successful television show, there were cries from many that the show didn’t really reflect African American life. But no popular television show reflects real life, except the shows most of us are afraid to admit we watch. What about Oprah Winfrey, Geraldo Rivera, Sally Jesse Raphael? These talk show hosts expose a frightening, hidden underside of majority America, one riddled with dys­functional families, incest, mate-swapping, child abuse. You cannot help but thank them for letting America know there is a sickness loose in the land, a breakdown of family values that is terrifying to behold. There seem to be almost daily quiet riots among a large section of the population; it is dazed and demoral­ized, and threatens the social fabric of our nation. Why has the lack of “family values” taken on a racial cast when such a widespread breakdown of home and family is displayed daily for all America to see?

In the aftermath of the death of justice in Simi Valley and the breakdown of law and order in Los Angeles, what do history’s dry bones have to tell us about our present discontents? Much of today’s discussion of inequality focuses on race, rather than on racism. Although we all often use these interchangeably, they are not the same and they do not mean the same thing. Particularly now, as the nation and those who want to lead the nation try to assign cause and blame for the Los Angeles events, the difference becomes more important. They speak about race; racism is the culprit.

Following the urban violence of the mid-sixties, the Kerner Commission appointed by Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson concluded that “white racism” was the single most important cause of inequality in income, housing, employment, education, and life chances between Blacks and whites. By the mid-1970s the growing number of Blacks and other minorities pressing for entry into traditionally white institutions created a backlash in the discourse about race. Opinion leaders – in government and private life – began to redefine the terms of the discussion. No longer was the Kerner Commission’s formulation acceptable. Any indictment of America could be abandoned. Instead, Black behavior became the reason why Blacks and whites lived in separate worlds. Aggressive Blacks were responsible for America’s demise, and for the Democrat’s defeats. In the opinion of many of our fellow citizens, Willie Horton and Bill Cosby were the same man, equally undesirable as neighbor, schoolmate, co­worker, or defender of our common soil. After the Simi Valley decision, Pres. George Bush’s advisers blamed the social welfare programs of the 1960s – which they had cut to the bone in the eighties – for the fires and looting in Los Angeles. In a kind of nonsensical tautology, their message was simple: these people are poor because they are pathological, they are pathological because they are poor.

In 1896, W. E. B. DuBois and his new bride moved into the slums of Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward, living amidst, as he wrote, “dirt, drunkenness, poverty and crime. Murder sat on our doorstep, police were our government, and philanthropy dropped in with periodic advice.” DuBois did not hesitate to criticize much of what he found. Crime in the Seventh Ward was “the besetting sins of half-developed races.” The Black Philadel­phians he studied were “a people comparatively low on the scale of civilization.” Black prisoners in the Philadelphia jail, he wrote, were criminal – “natural and inherent depravity.”

The kind of social Darwinism we hear from the White House today was even more popular in DuBois’ day. But W. E. B. DuBois did not assign these faults to biology, as was common then, or to a failed culture alone, as is common now. Instead, he blamed the disruptive force of the slavery past and the prevailing white prejudice. He called for the kind of Black self-help and trained leadership which flowered into the Niagara Falls Movement in 1905. And he helped to set in motion a remarkable century of community development, agitation, and organization against greater odds than any we face today. The men and women trained at Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University are the heirs of the work he began before the twentieth century opened.

Might we not look into the faces of the looters in Los Angeles­ – black, brown, and white – and see some of the same social banditry that saw slaves stealing from their masters? Is disrespect for “law and order” rooted in centuries of the law’s misuse?

In beginning this essay, I quoted a statement which called these intricate relationships “shrouded” and asked if hiding them had been inadvertent or malicious. The answer is both “yes” and “no.” The unexplored relationships between and among us all are obscured through designs both evil and benign. As we uncover and unravel them we will find the answers and, in discovering our past, learn much about our present and our future. Pennsylvania, while rich in history, has a hidden history with much to teach us.


For Further Reading

Aquila, Richard. That Old Time Rock and Roll. New York: Schirmer Books, 1989.

Bond, Horace Mann. Education for Freedom: A History of Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976.

Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986.

Carson, Clayborne. In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s. Boston: Harvard University Press, 1981.

Carson, Clayborne, et al. The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.,: Called to Serve, January 1919-June 1951. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

Clark, Dick, and Michael Shore. The History of American Band­stand. New York: Ballantine Books, 1985.

Cone, James M. Martin and Malcolm and America. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991.

DuBois, W. E. B. The Autobiography of W. E. B. DuBois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of its First Century. New York: International Publishers, 1968.

Garrow, David. Bearing the Cross. New York: William Morrow, 1986.

Gitlin, Todd. The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage. New York: Bantam Books, 1987.

Goldman, Albert. Elvis! New York: Avon Books, 1981.

Lincoln, C. Eric. The Black Muslims in America. Boston: Beacon Press, 1961.

Wexler, Sanford. The Civil Rights Movement: An Eyewitness History. New York: Facts on File, 1993.

Zinn, Howard. SNCC: The New Abolitionists. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964.


Julian Bond is currently a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at American University in Washington, D. C., and a lecturer in history at the University of Virginia. He has taught at the University of Pennsyl­vania, Drexel University, Harvard University, and Williams College. He serves on the boards and advisory committees of numerous national organizations, in addition to hosting America’s Black Forum, the oldest Black-owned television show in syndication. His articles, essays, and poetry have appeared in The Nation, Negro Digest, Motive, Life, Playboy, New York Times, Southern Changes, and New Negro Poets. He is the author of Black Candidates – Southern Campaign Experiences.