Funny how things come into our lives at particular times and just drift on by...but sometimes things converge in a stunning way. Such was the death of Julian Bond on August 15, 2015 for me. First of all, I had long been a “fan” of this handsome, articulate man. But I had no idea of the true breadth and depth of his contribution to our country. I should have had, but I didn’t. And I probably wouldn’t now if not for a book entitled “Subversive Southerner” by Catherine Fosl. The book was written in 2003 and, thanks to my friend and college roommate, I have an copy signed by Ms. Fosl and by the subject of the book, Anne Braden.
Growing up in Louisville, KY, the names Anne and Carl Braden, were lightening rods, bringing down murmurs of “communists” and “stirring up trouble.” Until Catherine Fosl published her historical biography of Anne Braden, I never really knew the full story behind the murmurings. By this time, I had left Louisville, but had retained an interest in the civil rights and social justice movements both there and elsewhere in the U.S.
I have long wondered where we would be if America had only risen to its promise of “liberty and justice for all” from its very inception. How do you tout a land where “all men are created equal” when a race is enslaved and a gender can’t even vote? Not to mention that the indigenous peoples are overrun and declared “savages.”
I came by my feminism easily, educated in private and all-girl schools. And my integrationist leanings were nurtured in the church and even in my home to a point. My parents were both Kentucky born and bred and variously impacted by the views of the Jim Crow south. They did a pretty good job of keeping those views hidden from their kids.
Back to Julian Bond. By the 1970s, any young liberal knew of Julian Bond, and admired him. We believed that racism in America would be a non-issue by the Twenty-First Century. Instead, the election and re-election of America’s first African American President unleashed a whole new volcano of hatred and racism.
And after some negotiation, (with the help of my friend Robin, mentioned above) I find myself narrating the audiobook of Catherine Fosl’s making, admiring Anne Braden more and more, and reading, just the day before his death, of Mr. Bonds’ first meeting with Anne in 1960. “Bond was one for whom her journalistic skills made all the difference. He thought of her as a professional, someone worthy of respect, and it would be several years into knowing her before he would drop the formality of calling her “Mrs. Braden.” Decades after they had become friends, Bond recalled that “because of the Patriot, which I admired not only because of its content but because of its design, Anne became a role model for me as a propagandist. I mean that in the good sense of the word, as someone who could get this movement out there in the public eye.”!
So my tiny world view took on another dimension on August 15, 2015, as I spent hours watching and listening to Julian Bond via the wonders of YouTube. Awareness is the first step. And sometimes the second, and the third...