U.Va. remembers late Prof. Julian Bond in two-day symposium

Speakers reflect on professor, activist’s influence, legac

The two-day “Keep the Movement Coming On” Symposium in memory of Julian Bond, the late Corcoran Department of History professor and civil rights activist, started Thursday and will end Friday.

“The history he lived was neither nostalgic nor self congratulatory,” Deborah McDowell, director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, said during her opening remarks.

Bond died on Aug. 15, 2015.

McDowell touched on his lifelong dedication and belief in civil rights.

“Civil rights are positive legal prerogatives. The right to equal treatment before the law. There is no one who does not and should not share and enjoy these rights,” McDowell said, quoting Bond.

University President Teresa Sullivan spoke about Bond’s mission as a teacher.

“In 2012, the University of Virginia magazine asked Mr. Bond which lesson he hoped his students would learn from him,” Sullivan said. “He responded by saying, ‘I hope they learn the Civil Rights Movement was a movement of ordinary people. They should not believe it was all magical figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. It was mostly ordinary people who did this. And these students are ordinary people and they can do the same thing.’”

Bond taught at the University for over 20 years.

“Julian Bond himself was I guess an ordinary person, but he had an extraordinary impact on our nation and on our University,” Sullivan said. “He was a driving force for social change in our country for more than half a century as a politician, scholar, writer, teacher, mentor and friend.”

College Dean Ian Baucom announced the formation of a new professorship to honor Bond’s legacy.

The endowed Julian Bond Professorship of Civil Rights and Social Justice was created with the achievement of a $3 million fundraising goal with more than 350 donors.

McDowell talked about how Bond described himself as a “race man.”

“[The term is] used to describe a man … [who] is a good defender of race. Didn’t dislike white people, but stood up for black people, fought for black people,” McDowell said.

Pamela Horowitz, Bond’s widow, described the University as Bond’s academic home and the lasting impact his work will have.

“In lieu of a gravestone, [he] wanted a bench. And he’s getting a bench from the city of Washington D.C. He wanted the bench to say ‘race man,’” Horowitz said.

Horowitz said the symposium is a reflection on Bond’s life, the issues it revolved around and the defining traits of his character.

“And on the other side [of the bench] he wanted it to say ‘easily amused.’ And that was Julian. It was his sense of humor that enabled him throughout his life to do the serious work of being a race man,” Horowitz said. “[It is] one of the many traits we can all emulate.”

The panel, “A Band of Sisters and Brothers in a Circle of Trust,” explored Bond’s connection to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an organization which played an active role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Panelist Judy Richardson, a SNCC activist, emphasized the impact SNCC had on Bond’s life and later work.

“It is impossible to fully understand Julian without understanding SNCC and its everlasting influence,” Richardson said.

Bond served as SNCC’s communications director from 1961-1966.

“We were 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds, except our bond was forged in struggle, and was stronger because racists at every level were trying to kill us. We were really a band of brothers and sisters in a circle of trust,” Richardson said.

Richardson said Bond reflected on that influence at the group’s fiftieth anniversary.

“To see these people who I went through the most important days of my life just means so much to me. I am so happy to be here. I know that some of these people I will never see again,” Richardson said, quoting Bond.

The symposium will continue Friday, with five panels starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

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