Note: This original one-on-one interview, part of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky Oral History Project, was produced by the Kentucky Oral History Commission and Historical Society.
Julian Horace Bond was born in Nashville, was raised in Georgia and Pennsylvania, but had significant roots in Kentucky. His great-grandmother was a slave brought to Kentucky as a wedding gift for her owner. His grandfather, James Bond, was a minister born into slavery in Lawrenceburg.
His grandfather graduated from Berea College and later became a founding staff member of Lincoln Institute. (Berea trustees founded the school in Shelby County after Kentucky lawmakers forced them to stop educating black and white students together.)
Julian Bond attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, but dropped out in 1960 to co-found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. (He later returned and completed his degree.)
In 1965, Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. His fellow legislators refused to seat him, though, because of his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1966 that the Georgia Legislature had violated Bond’s freedom of speech, and ordered Bond be installed to his seat.
Bond went on to serve four terms in the Georgia House and six terms in the state Senate.
In 1968, as one of the leaders of the antiwar/civil rights coalition within the Democratic Party, he was nominated for the vice presidency at the Chicago Democratic Convention. He refused the nomination because he was too young to hold the office of Vice President. Bond ran for Congress in 1987, but lost in a bitterly contested race to his friend and fellow activist John Lewis.
In addition to his political activism, Bond made a name for himself as a scholar and historian. He held numerous honorary degrees and was a professor of history at the University of Virginia and a distinguished adjunct professor at American University in Washington, D.C.
Bond was the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and was chairman of the board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1998 to 2010.