SANFORD BISHOP STATEMENT REGARDING BLACK HISTORY MONTH
WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Congressman Sanford Bishop (GA-02) released the following video statement today in recognition of Black History Month during February of 2016. To view the video statement, please click here or on the picture below:
A transcript of Congressman Sanford D. Bishop Jr.’s statement regarding Black History Month 2016 can be found below:
As we celebrate Black History Month, I have decided to focus and reflect on the life of my friend, colleague and mentor, Julian Bond, who died at age 75 on August 15, 2015.
Julian Bond was an American social activist and leader of the Civil Rights Movement, a politician, college professor, and writer. In 1960, when he was 20, he co-founded the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, the youthful arm of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1965, he was one of 11 African Americans elected to the Georgia House of Representatives after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
On January 10, 1966, the Georgia House of Representatives voted 184-12 not to seat him because he publically endorsed SNCC’s policy in opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War.
In 1998, he was selected Chairman of the NAACP. In 2002, he was featured in a documentary film: Julian Bond; Reflections from the Frontline of the Civil Rights Movement.
Shakespeare wrote: “All the world’s a stage, all the men and women merely players. Each has their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”
So it was with Julian Bond.
I went to Morehouse College as a freshman in 1964. Demonstrations and protests were rampant all over the South. Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, President of Morehouse, constantly highlighted the courage and success of our Morehouse brother, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in leading the movement for civil and human rights.
Three years earlier, Julian Bond, Son of the First President of FVSC and President of Lincoln University, dropped out of Morehouse to join the Civil Rights Movement. But I was at Morehouse when Julian Bond decided it was time to take the movement from the streets to the suites of political power – who ran for the Georgia State House and was elected.
I was at Morehouse on January 14, 1966 when Dr. King led the 1500 person march to the State Capitol to protest the General Assembly’s failure to allow Julian to take the seat to which he was elected three times and to which he was only seated after a ruling by the United States Supreme Court – all because he exercised his rights of free speech against the Vietnam War.
I recognized Julian Bond as the skinny guy with the big afro who they said had led the Atlanta University Center students to desegregate the cafeteria at Atlanta City Hall. One of the founders of SNCC.
I recognized Julian as a colleague of our other youthful heroes of the student movement such as John Lewis, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Stanley Wise, and Cleveland Sellers, who were often on campus.
I recognized Julian as a mentee of Dr. Vincent Harding, activist, Spellman College history professor, founder of the Institute of the Black World, and the first Director of the Martin Luther King Center started in the basement of the library of I.T.C. following Dr. King’s death, where I worked as a student.
I recognized him as the young man taking walks down Lee Street near the campus with his then elderly parents -- Dr. and Mrs. Horace Mann Bond, renowned educators.
I knew him as brother-in-law to civil rights attorney, Howard Moore, Jr. who in 1968 encouraged me to go to law school instead of seminary if I wanted to keep Dr. King’s dream alive and bring useful skills to the civil rights movement rather than just “hot air”.
I knew Julian Bond as the star of the 1968 Democratic National Convention; the handsome, eloquent, daring, Georgia State Representative who was the face of the successful challenge to the all-white Georgia Delegation led by the racist Georgia Governor Lester Maddox – who made black people all over the world proud when he was nominated for Vice President of the United States.
Fast forward to 1976, when I was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives from Muscogee County – 10 years after Julian, two years after he was elected to the State Senate.
As a new member of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, I was appointed by the Chairman Bobby Hill, as Treasurer for the project to erect the sculpture on the State Capitol grounds honoring the 33 black legislators expelled because of their color after the Reconstruction Era. My job was to collect, deposit, and distribute the assessments from each Black Caucus Member to pay for the design, smelting, and installation of the statue. I had to go to each member, including Julian.
When I got to Julian, I had to wait. He had 6 or 7 folks waiting to see him. Reporters, admirers, students, maybe one of his children. He was quite a celebrity – a bigger than life hero for me. So every spare moment I had, I would hang out in his first floor Senate office.
He was full of stories, but always helpful, funny, always calling out discrimination, pressing for equal opportunity, equal justice under law. Always working on articles or speeches and pecking them out on his typewriter.
But he was hated by the “powers that be” in the legislature. James ‘Sloppy’ Floyd, for whom the State Office Buildings are named, said Julian Bond was a “shame and disgrace to his race and this state.”
Any bill that had Senator Julian Bond’s name on it would be killed when it got to the House floor. Julian had a serious interest in policy – pushing improved welfare, minimum wage, abolition of the death penalty; increased funding for schools, anti-poverty programs. He wanted to transform the politics of marches, demonstrations, and protests into effective electoral instruments.
So I asked Julian, “How did he deal with it. How did he deal with the haters?” He said, “Sanford, the rednecks in the General Assembly like white Republicans more than they like black Democrats. So whenever I have issues that I really want to pass the legislature and be signed into law, I get my friend and State Senate colleague, the [late] U.S. Senator Paul Coverdale, to sponsor them and they passed right through unscathed.”
He said if you don’t care who gets the credit, you can find lots of ways of getting things done. That was a valuable lesson for me which I used in Congress to get the legislation passed to name the C.B. King United States District Court House in Albany, Georgia. When partisan politics was holding up my bill in the House, remembering the lesson from Julian, I drafted 2 copies of the bill and got then U.S. Senator Paul Coverdell to introduce it in the U.S. Senate. It passed through the Senate, and the Republicans passed it through the House with no problems, and it was signed into law.
Julian was highly sought after as a speaker, commanding thousands of dollars a speech and giving 5 to 10 speeches a month. He was criticized for frequent absences and he told me that that he had to support his family and the $7200/yr legislative pay was just not enough.
But he helped his friends and remained on the Board of The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama which has, for decades, fought racism, violence, and broke the back of the Ku Klux Klan drawing them into bankruptcy.
During his life, Julian Bond did so much, for so many, for so long, Georgia, America, and the world are better because of the life of our friend Julian Bond.
Isn’t it strange,
How princes and kings,
And clowns that caper
In sawdust rings,
And common folks
Like you and me,
Are builders for eternity?
Each is given a set of rules,
A shapeless mass,
A bag of tools.
And each must fashion,
Ere life is flown
A stumbling block
Or a stepping stone.
We are so thankful that the life of Julian Bond was not a stumbling block but a stepping stone for a better life for human kind.
To watch on Congressman Sanford Bishop’s YouTube Channel, please click here.