Julian Bond tells of family’s slave history at March on Washington

It’s not just 50 years after the March on Washington, Atlanta civil rights leader Julian Bond reminded the crowd gathered at today’s commemoration on the National Mall: It’s also 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

“My grandfather and his mother were property, like a horse or a chair,” the former NAACP chairman said below a marble Abraham Lincoln.

“As a young girl she’d been given away as a wedding present to a new bride. And when that bride became pregnant, her husband — that’s my great grandmother’s owner and master — exercised his right to take his wife’s slave as his mistress. That union produced two children, one of them my grandfather.”

Bond’s grandfather, who walked across Kentucky to go to college, “belonged to a transcendent generation of black Americans” who emerged from slavery, Bond said. As did Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement veterans, who emerged from segregation.

“We’re still being tested by hardship and diversity, from the elevation of Stand Your Ground laws to the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act,” Bond said, evoking, as many speakers today have, the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of a Florida teen and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County vs. Holder.

“But today we commit ourselves, as we did 50 years ago, to greater efforts and grander victories.”