The world lost one its key civil rights leaders and anti-war activists Saturday night (August 15). Julian Bond, who was a leader in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and served as chairman of the NAACP, died at age 75 after a brief bout of illness.
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Bond was an icon of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, helping establish the SNCC during his undergrad years as a student at Morehouse College. The committee went on to coordinate sit-ins, voter drives and freedom rides in the Civil Rights Movement and played leading roles in the 1963 March on Washington, the Mississippi Freedom Summer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
The SNCC was also notable for the age of its members. Born out of student-led groups organizing protests and sit-ins against racial segregation in Southern communities, the SNCC firmly established itself as an organization deserving of its own legacy. The SNCC, like many other student organizing groups of the '60s and '70s, proved real political action could be found through the hearts and minds of the nation’s youngest.
Bond’s history in activism, equal rights and politics did not end after his time in college. He eventually spent four terms in the Georgia House of Representatives and six terms in the Georgia Senate. He later became the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Bond also helped found and served as the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal group which specializes in civil rights and public interest issues. ”With Julian's passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice," said the center in a statement announcing his death. "He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all."
Indeed, Bond was an outspoken supporter of numerous equal rights initiatives, including LGBTQ rights. “African Americans ... were the only Americans who were enslaved for two centuries, but we were far from the only Americans suffering discrimination then and now.... Sexual disposition parallels race. I was born this way. I have no choice. I wouldn’t change it if I could. Sexuality is unchangeable,” he said during a 2005 speech upon accepting Equality Virginia’s Equality Commonwealth Award.
Upon news of his death, many celebrities spoke out about the heroic work Bond contributed to equal rights in the U.S.
And earlier today, President Obama released a statement about his passing. "Julian Bond helped change the country for the better. And what better way to be remembered than that."
Indeed. Julian Bond, you will be missed. Rest in power.