Julian Bond’s 1969 anti-war and anti-racism message in Grand Rapids

In October of 1969, former Georgia legislator, SNCC founder and NAACP President, Julian Bond, spoke at Aquinas College.Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 1.07.34 PM

The best article on Bond’s visit to Grand Rapids in 1969, was written by John Ottenhoff with the Calvin College student newspaper. Ottenhoff follows a chronological approach to what Bond had to say at the Catholic college. 

Bond began his talk by quoting speeches from three prominent African Americans in US history. First, Bond read part of Frederick Douglas’ famous Independence Day speech. Ottenhoff writes that Bond quoted this excerpt from Douglas’ speech: “There is not a country more guilty of bloodshed anywhere in the world than the United States.”

Next Bond cites a bishop and politician from the Reconstruction era, Henry McNeal Turner. The quote from Turner that the Calvin student cites is, “The black man cannot protect a country that does not defend him.”

Lastly, Bond shared thoughts from Dr. John S. Rock. Rock was an abolitionist, a doctor and a lawyer. Bond cites a 1958 speech he gave, where Rock coined the phrased Black is Beautiful. 

Bond used the thoughts of these famous Black men to make the point that the conditions for Black people haven’t changed much from the 1860’s to the 1960’s.

Bond then went on to talk about the topic of Vietnam and made the point that the US does not respect the rights of the Vietnamese and more than they do “Cubans, blacks or college students.”

The important thing about what Bond is doing here is that he provides an early example of an intersectional lens to various topics, and, like so many other black revolutionaries from this period, always linked the black freedom struggle to other anti-colonial struggles around the world.

The SNCC founder then talked in more detail about the condition of black people in America, but made the important distinction about who the racists are in the US. Bond said, “The real villains are the many people who call themselves decent and responsible, who think poverty is a state of mind, who say all blacks are lazy. The villains are the so-called white liberals who are lazy and do nothing.

There was one other piece written on Julian Bond’s visit to Grand Rapids, an editorial from the Grand Rapids Press 2 days later. The Press editorial is instructive, as it not only reflects the bias of the Press, but underscores a deeply white supremacist mindset.

We think it is worth it to reprint the entire editorial so that people can read for themselves how deeply racist their views are.

Bond

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One Response to Julian Bond’s 1969 anti-war and anti-racism message in Grand Rapids

  1. Pingback: Booker T. Washington and White Paternalism in Grand Rapids in the early part of the 20th Century | Grand Rapids People's History Project

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