Father of civil rights activist and Georgia politician Julian Bond, Horace Mann Bond had a long and distinguished career as a historian, college administrator, and social science researcher, while making his own contributions to the Black freedom struggle of the 1950s and 1960s.
Bond was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on November 8, 1904, to Jane Alice Browne and James Bond. His parents, children of formerly enslaved people, both graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio and valued education highly. Trained as a pastor, Bond’s father accepted posts at Congregationalist churches across the South, many attached to historically Black colleges. The Bond family lived at various times in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Considering themselves part of the nation’s “Black elite,” the Bonds strongly encouraged Horace to follow in their footsteps and find success through academic achievement.
In 1919, at the age of fourteen, Bond began attending Lincoln University, a prestigious college for African Americans located in Pennsylvania. While his first few years at Lincoln proved difficult, by his junior year Bond had found his focus and excelled at his work. He graduated in 1923 and in 1924 began graduate work in education at the University of Chicago in Illinois. In 1929 he married Julia Agnes Washington, and the couple had three children, Jane Marguerite, Horace Julian, and James George.
Bond worked for twelve years to complete his doctorate degree; his studies were often interrupted by his acceptance of various academic positions around the nation. Between 1924 and 1939 he taught at Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma; served as chairman of the education department at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee; and was appointed the first academic dean at the newly formed Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Bond also produced his best-known and most highly regarded work during these years. In 1934 he published The Education of the Negro in the American Social Order, and in 1936 he completed his doctoral dissertation, which was published in 1939 as Negro Education in Alabama: A Study in Cotton and Steel.
In 1934 Bond and his wife spent several months living in Washington Parish in rural southeastern Louisiana. Bond had been sent there to conduct a study of rural Black schools, but he also kept a journal detailing the lives of the poor Black farm families he lived among. The journal was published in 1997 as The Star Creek Papers. In 1939 the responsibilities of caring for a family, coupled with a lack of well-paying positions for lack academics, led Bond to accept the presidency of Fort Valley Normal and Industrial School (later Fort Valley State University), a two-year junior college in Peach County, Georgia. Bond spent the next six years working to improve the school’s curriculum and finances. The college’s income doubled during his tenure, and the state appropriation more than tripled, a remarkable feat given that Black colleges were not usually a funding priority for state educational leaders. Bond also oversaw the school’s transition into a four-year, baccalaureate-granting institution.
In 1945 Bond accepted the presidency of Lincoln University, his alma mater. Bond possessed a deep fondness for the school and had maintained a close relationship with several of its teachers and administrators since his graduation. These factors, as well as his successes at Fort Valley, seemed to make Bond the natural choice for the university’s first African American president. Bond also wanted to move to a location that provided better educational opportunities for his children than were available in rural Georgia. His twelve-year tenure, however, failed to witness the successes that Bond achieved at Fort Valley and other administrative posts over the years. A formal and occasionally stubborn man, Bond ran into trouble at various times with the faculty, the board of trustees, and alumni groups. In 1957 he resigned his position.
After leaving Lincoln, Bond returned to the South to serve as the dean of the School of Education at Atlanta University (later Clark Atlanta University). He later became the director of the Bureau of Educational and Social Research at the school.
His administrative duties hampered his ability to do serious academic research. While Bond continued to publish throughout his career, his work never reclaimed the depth or scope of his work from the 1930s. He did engage, however, in several notable projects during his years as an administrator. In 1953, along with historians C. Vann Woodward and John Hope Franklin, Bond conducted research for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defense and Education Fund. This work contributed to the arguments presented before the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Bond’s history of Lincoln University, published in 1976, was the product of almost twenty years of research, mostly done while he served as the university’s president.
Bond retired from Atlanta University in 1971 and died on December 21, 1972.