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Civil Rights Leader Julian Bond To Speak At UVM

Carolyn Kaster
Julian Bond speaks during an event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial, Aug. 24, 2013, in Washington.

Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, celebrating the life and legacy of the great civil rights leader, who was assassinated in 1968.

And all this week at the University of Vermont, the man who delivered one of the greatest speeches of the 20th Century at the March on Washington will be honored with what UVM is calling the “Martin Luther King Celebration, Education & Learning Week,” to be capped off by a keynote address on Thursday as part of a special tribute to the more recent passing of another champion of civil rights, Nelson Mandela.

The man delivering that keynote address is Julian Bond, himself an iconic civil rights leader and activist who, in his long career fighting for equal rights, helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, served as the first President of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and was elected to 4 terms in the Georgia House of Representatives.

He was also a friend and colleague to Martin Luther King, Jr. Julian Bond spoke with VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb.

Bond said there are clear links between Mandela and King’s legacies, even though the two men never crossed paths . “Although they did not know each other and never met each other, they reflect each other. Mandela and the ANC, his political organization in South Africa, drew much of their development from the American Civil Rights movement. At the same time, American Civil Rights movement was very much involved in helping to rally forces against the apartheid policies of while South Africans.”

We have African-American governors, members of Congress and an African-American president, but Bond said those things don't mean that racial discrimination has vanished in the United States.

“There’s plenty of evidence that’s not true. We can glory in the fact that we have a black president, the first ever, and even more important that he was re-elected. That’s a wonderful thing for our country to have done, but that’s not an end all. There’s still prejudice and still bigotry across the country.” 

Many political pundits said that after President Barack Obama’s election, the United States had entered a post-racial society. But Bond disagreed with that assessment.

“First, look at the evidence, at the vituperation that President Obama has received from people who seem to be most concerned that he’s guilty of being president while black.  If that’s the case, how can you say that this is a post-racial society? There are so many things that we haven’t done. If you look at only one, we’ve not made much progress at all in ending housing discrimination in the United States. If you go to any metropolitan area in the United States, and I guess many rural areas too, the white people live over here, and the black people live over here. And that’s as true now as it was when Dr. King was alive. We’ve done very little about that, even though there are laws against it. Those laws are not very vigorously enforced, and so here’s a problem that cries out for us to do something about it. We can’t rest,” Bond said. 

Julian Bond will be speaking on Thursday afternoon at Ira Allen Chapel at the University of Vermont.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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