Throughout his successful career and personal and political adversity, Julian Bond has been labeled everything from a national hero to a national traitor. He has faced violent segregationists and his own political failures and scandals. In spite of everything, he has remained an influential voice in politics, education, and the media.
Bond was born on January 14, 1940. His father, an eminent scholar and president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, wanted Julian to follow him into the world of academia. In 1960 Bond attended Morehouse College in Atlanta. While at Morehouse, Bond developed an interest in civil rights activism. He and several other students formed the Atlanta Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (COAHR). Along with other members, Bond participated in several sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in downtown Atlanta. The activities of Bond and his cohorts attracted the attention of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King invited Bond and other COAHR members to Shaw University in North Carolina to help devise new civil rights strategies. At this conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was created. The SNCC eventually absorbed COAHR, and Bond accepted a position as the SNCC director of communications. By 1966 Bond had grown tired of the SNCC and decided to embark on a new career in politics.
In 1966 Bond campaigned for a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives. He won the election and prepared to take his seat in the Georgia legislature. However, Bond was soon embroiled in a bitter controversy when he publicly announced that he opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam and supported students who burned their draft cards to protest against the Vietnam War. These statements outraged many conservative members of the Georgia House of Representatives and, on January 10, 1966, they voted to prevent Bond's admission to the legislature. On December 5, 1966, the Court ruled that the Georgia vote was a violation of Bond's First Amendment right of free speech and ordered that he be admitted to the legislature. The members of the Georgia House of Representatives reluctantly allowed Bond to take his seat, but treated him as an outcast.
Bond's battle with the Georgia House of Representatives was not his last experience as the center of controversy. In 1968 Bond and several other members of the Georgia Democratic Party Forum protested Governor Lester Maddox's decision to send only six African American delegates out of 107 to the Democratic National Convention. Bond and his supporters arrived at the convention and set up a rival delegation. After several bitter arguments with Georgia's official delegation, Bond's delegation had captured nearly half of Georgia's delegate votes. Bond's actions made him a national hero to many African Americans. He became the Democratic Party's first black candidate for the U.S. vice presidency, a position he declined.
Throughout the 1970s Bond was no longer in the national spotlight. In 1974 he became president of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP and served until 1989. Also, Bond was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1975 and remained a member until 1987. In 1976 he refused a cabinet position in the Carter administration. Although Bond continued to express his political views as a writer and lecturer, his popularity plummeted dramatically.
The 1980s proved to be difficult for Bond on both a professional and personal level. Bond ran for a seat in the U.S. Congress in 1986 but lost the election. In 1989 he divorced his wife after twenty-eight years of marriage. Shortly thereafter he became embroiled in a paternity suit. He initially denied the allegations but admitted in May 1990 to fathering the child and was ordered to pay child support. Bond remarried in March 1990.
Although Bond retired from political life, he remained active regarding issues of the community. He was a popular lecturer and writer and was often called upon to comment on political and social issues. Bond hosted a popular television program, America's Black Forum, and narrated the highly acclaimed public television series Eyes on the Prize. He has written syndicated newspaper columns and narrated the documentaries The American Experience: Duke Ellington Reminiscing in Tempo (1992) and A Time for Justice, which won an Academy Award. He has written several books, including Mose Ts Slapout Family Album (1996) and Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Celebration of the Negro National Anthem (2000).
In 1998 Bond was elected as chairman of the Board of Directors for the NAACP He maintained this office until 2009. Bond is a distinguished professor in residence at American University and is a professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Virginia.