July 17, 2009 — Julian Bond, professor of history in the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences, received the highest honor given by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Spingarn Medal, at its annual convention this week.
The six-day conference, which concluded Thursday in New York City, celebrated the organization's 100th anniversary and featured Bond introducing President Obama, who gave the final keynote address.
Bond, who has served as chairman of the NAACP's National Board since 1998, received the Springarn Medal at a dinner Thursday. The medal recognizes an African American in any field for distinguished merit and achievement during the preceding year or years.
"Chairman Bond's record of service and leadership is legendary and inspiring," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and chief executive officer of the NAACP. "He has suffered and survived many attacks from extremists, but has always stood strong. His passionate oratory, deep thinking, political savvy and sense of humor make him a unique scholar-statesman of our time and an omnipresent soldier in the struggle for equality on many fronts."
Bond became involved in the struggle for African-Americans' equal rights when he was a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta in the 1960s, leading nonviolent sit-ins at segregated businesses, including movie theaters and restaurants, which eventually led to their integration. He also co-founded the national Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and worked on voter registration in the rural South.
He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, but the House voted not to seat him because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. He was re-elected twice more before taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided unanimously that he should be allowed to assume his seat. Bond ended up serving four terms in the House and six terms in the Georgia Senate.
At the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Bond was the first African American to be nominated for U.S. vice president, but had to withdraw because he was too young.
Bond first taught at U.Va. in 1990 and became full professor in 1998. Author of dozens of articles about civil rights history, he is co-director, with Phyllis Leffler, of "Explorations in Black Leadership," an ongoing series of videotaped interviews with outstanding African-American leaders.
Bond, who has been awarded 25 honorary degrees, also teaches at American University in Washington, D.C., where he resides.
Along with his political and academic careers, Bond has sat on the boards of many organizations, including People for the American Way, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Council for a Livable World. He also serves as chairman of the Premier Auto Group Diversity Council and is on the advisory board of the Harvard Business School Initiative on Social Enterprise.
He was a commentator on the oldest black-owned show in television syndication, "America's Black Forum," and has narrated several TV specials and films about the American civil rights era, among them, "Eyes on the Prize" and the Academy Award-winning short documentary, "A Time for Justice."
Among his numerous awards, Bond was named a "Living Legend" by the U.S. Library of Congress last year and in 2002 received the National Freedom Award from the U.S. Civil Rights Museum.
The Spingarn Medal was created in 1914 by the late Joel E. Spingarn, then NAACP chairman. As a recipient, Bond joins an illustrious list of 93 other awardees, including scientist George Washington Carver, historian Carter G. Woodson, baseball hall of famer Henry "Hank" Aaron, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, comedian Bill Cosby, poet Maya Angelou, former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, activist Rosa Parks and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.