In honor of Black History month we would like to dedicate an article about Reverend James Bond.
James Bond was born as a slave during the American Civil War on September 5th 1863 near Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. He grew up in Barbourville town in Knox Country. His mother – Jane – was a slave, who in her teens was given as a “gift” slave to a bride of a white slave-owner for their wedding. Jane did not just serve as a slave, she also served as the mistress of her master during his wife’s pregnancy. That is how James Bond, along with his brother Henry, was born as child of a slave woman and white slave master – Preston Bond.
James Bond admired his mother not just as a mother, but also as a strong woman. His mother educated and inspired both of her sons to become the best possible in their future life and career. She was their encouragement, as Bond stated, “to be somebody and make a man of myself” and to behave oneself in an honest and respectful manners. His mother was a “heroic figure,” who served as a symbol of “…the mute, yet glorious, yet tragic destiny of the Negro slave woman, bowed indeed, beneath the weight of centuries, yet possessed of a spark of courage and hope that transfigured her life and shed a radiance upon the life of those with whom she came in contact.”
Thus, Bond became very aware of the injustice that slavery carried within itself and its effects on many lives. Despite the evils of slavery and its consequences, Bond was an obvious optimist, who declared his fortune to have been born as an African American in an American society. He took great interested in racial issues in the American society of his time. Bond’s life in Kentucky and post-Civil War atmosphere of the South was not without challenges. But those challenges in life served Bond as an encouragement to go explore the world beyond the Appalachian Mountains.
In 1879, at the age of sixteen James Bond traveled a long way through the state of Kentucky and reached Berea College. He first discovered Berea during his visit to the white Jarvis family, for whom his mother worked. Prior to his arrival at the Berea College, Bond could neither write nor read, but he took up the challenge and sixteen years later successfully graduated. He was among only two thousand other fortunate African Americans to hold a college degree when he graduated from Berea College with a B.S. degree in 1892. At the graduation, the college faculty even chose him to deliver the commencement speech, in which Bond demonstrated his hopeful and wise state of spirit and mind. Bond did not stop at pursuing his higher education after graduation from Berea College. He continued his studies in theology and ministry at the Oberlin College, and in 1895 he graduated with Bachelor of Divinity. Moreover, his honorary degrees from Berea College and Master of Science degree earned in 1897 and Doctor of Divinity degree earned in 1901 broadened his career opportunities in becoming a minister.
As a minister, Reverend or Dr. Bond dedicated himself at serving his nation and people in churches of Alabama and Tennessee. Yet, he kept close contact with Berea College. From 1896 to 1912 he served as the first African American Trustee and Board Secretary of Berea College. He actively and enthusiastically supported the College, despite the racist obstacles, such as the Kentucky Day Law of 1904. When the Day Law prohibited the participation of interracial education Dr. Bond took up the challenge and responsibility on the creation and supervision of the Lincoln Institute by fundraising. Lincoln Institute was situated near Simpsonville, Kentucky and it granted former African American students of Berea College to continue their education. From 1907 to 1914, Dr. Bond vigorously and loyally dedicated himself on keeping Fee’s vision alive of granting equal education for all individuals.
Dr. Bond’s loyalty and dedication to his nation was so great, that even volunteered to be in the U.S. Army when the U.S. entered the World War I. However, due to his age, he was unable to be part of the U.S. Army. Instead, he served as the YMCA Service Director at Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville, which was yet another opportunity for him to teach night classes to soldiers. Dr. Bond was a skillful multi-tasker that even after the war for ten years he administered summer camps for African American youth as Secretary for the Kentucky YMCA, while also serving as the Director of the Kentucky Interracial Commission. He also served as a prominent public speaker and civil rights activist, who preached for more interracial equality and interracial dialogue. He was great activist in creating and granting opportunities to everyone, who wished to receive education and be academically involved in their communities. He passionately believed in the power and magic of education.
James Bond passionately disagreed with slavery and the act of utilizing human individuals as slaves. He thought that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had not brought full justice and equality to the African-Americans. He argued that many white Americans continued to assume that the hardships, especially economic, of the African-Americans have ended after immediate declaration of Emancipation. Whereas the hardships and dangers have increased for the African-Americans and one of them was the Ku Klux Klan, from the hands of which many suffered brutal and torturous deaths. He even wrote a weekly column called “Interracially Speaking” for the Lexington newspaper, where he encouraged his community to establish less segregated and more racially equal communities. He was a passionate opponent of segregation and an active advocate of interracial communication – the pioneer of the African American community.
Bond whole-heartedly admired and respected John G. Fee. When Fee died in 1901, now as a Reverend, Bond gave a memorial speech at Fee’s funeral ceremony. In his speech, Bond expressed his gratitude and fortune to have met a great man as John G. Fee. He described Fee as the man, who was a “…friend to each and all and sought the highest good of all alike. He loved men, not conditions; humanity, not races or nationalities. … John G. Fee was a benefactor of the world. His name and deeds are the heritage of humanity.” His sincerely quoted that: “Another of the long list of Americans who have made the nineteenth Century famous has gone.”
In 2010, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights listed James Bond among many other civil rights leaders in the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame, who has greatly and tirelessly committed himself for the well-being of his people and the American nation.
Reverend Bond died at the age of 65 on January 15th, 1929 in Louisville, Kentucky. Yet, Bond’s death did not put an end to the Bond family legacy. Reverend Bond’s six children and his brother’s six children – eighteen in all – have equally earned education and became successful individuals. James Bond’s sons – Horace Mann Bond and J. Max Bond – have succeeded in public service. They were educators and actively promoted and spread of educational opportunities not only throughout the American nation, even internationally. Both served as presidents of the universities they either have studied in or have established. Bond’s grandson, Horace Mann Bond’s son, Horace Julian Bond became the first African American, who was nominated to the office of Vice-President of the United States in 1968 elections. For almost over a decade, he served as the head of the NAACP. He was the co-founder and leader of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Many descendants of the Bond family is now spread throughout the American nation as well as throughout various professions – as architects, drama and speech teachers, economists, etc.