Yesterday evening GCP attended “A Conversation with Julian Bond and Anderson Cooper”, to hear CNN anchor Cooper interview Bond about his life in the civil rights movement. Bond, who was the co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and more recently the Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP, reminisced about the evolution of his work in the civil rights movement. Bond is retiring as a professor at the University of Virginia in May of this year.
In discussing his many years as a civil rights history professor, Bond worriedly noted that the history of the civil rights movement is not well taught in schools. He cited a study commissioned last year to determine what high school seniors knew about various aspects of American History. The study revealed that the majority of the students only knew two names in civil rights history: Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. While Bond was quick to acknowledge the important contributions of these leaders, he cautioned, “Unless you know the bigger picture, you don’t know anything about it”.
Bond cited several valuable sources for parents to consult in order to ensure that our children know more about the civil rights movement and its history. The Civil Rights Movement Veterans’ website (www.crmvet.org), found here, is a comprehensive site put together by people who served in the movement. It includes narratives and interviews of movement veterans, photos, and “Letters and Reports from the Field”, written at the time the events were unfolding. This site also has a student’s section, and an extensive bibliography section which includes books for readers of all ages.
Bond also strongly recommended that parents show their children the documentary series “Eyes on the Prize”, one episode at a time. This 14 hour documentary series on the civil rights movement was created and executive-produced by Henry Hampton and broadcast on PBS in two parts, in 1987 and 1990. This series, considered by historians and academicians to be a key reference and record of the civil rights movement, may be purchased as a DVD set, and may also be borrowed from public libraries.
Fundraising efforts are underway to create the Julian Bond Professorship in Civil Rights and Social Justice at the University of Virginia. Bond hopes that the creation of this chair will enable more students to learn about the movement, and as importantly, be able to teach it to future generations. He notes, ” If future generations know the history of the struggle for civil rights, they will live in a better America.”
Let’s do our part to ensure our sons and daughters know this history.