Commencement Speaker

Julian BondWagner College’s 2014 commencement speaker will be civil rights leader Julian Bond. Commencement is scheduled for Friday, May 23 at 10 a.m.

“Julian Bond has been the persistent conscience of the movement for equal rights,” said Wagner College President Richard Guarasci, “and, as such, is a critical voice in the march for freedom and equality.”

Julian Bond was virtually born into the civil rights movement in 1940. His father, historian and social scientist Horace Mann Bond, became the first black president of America’s oldest black private college, Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University, in 1945. With two other historians, Horace Bond conducted the research on the history of education that helped the NAACP win its landmark Supreme Court case against segregated public schools, Brown v Board of Education, in 1954.

In 1960, while a student at Morehouse College, Julian Bond joined the civil rights movement himself, serving as communications director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and traveling throughout the South to organize voter registration drives.

After the federal Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts created opportunities in Georgia’s electoral process, Julian Bond was elected in 1965 to the Georgia House of Representatives. The Georgia House, however, voted not to seat him because of his opposition to the Vietnam War draft. It took a U.S. Supreme Court decision to seat Bond in the House. Bond ran for re-election three times, and each time his electoral district was re-districted — yet still he won.

After four terms in the Georgia House, Julian Bond ran for the Georgia Senate, serving there from 1975 to 1987. He resigned to run for Congress in 1987, losing the Democratic primary to rival civil rights leader John Lewis.

In 1971, Julian Bond helped found the Southern Poverty Law Center, serving as board president from 1971 to 1979. Today, Bond is president emeritus of the SPLC.

Julian Bond taught at Drexel, American and Harvard universities and the University of Virginia in the 1980s and ’90s. It was during this period that he narrated the highly acclaimed PBS series, “Eyes on the Prize,” which recounted the history of the civil rights movement. He also hosted “America’s Black Forum,” a weekly television news program, from 1980 to 1997.

From 1998 to 2009, Julian Bond served as chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.

Today, Bond is a distinguished scholar in residence at American University and a history professor at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, where he is co-director of Explorations in Black Leadership, which compiles interviews with black leaders for the Civil Rights History Project.


A video montage shown at the Paramount Theater by the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on Jan. 30, 2013, when Julian Bond was honored at the annual MLK Community Celebration.