The Ciesla Foundation mourns the passing of civil rights activist Julian Bond, whose speech twelve years ago at the Hebrew Center at Vineyard Haven inspired me to make this film on Julius Rosenwald. As a consultant Julian guided me every step of the way about who to interview, where to look for materials, what the story line was, what photo to use in the poster, and most of all how important Julius Rosenwald was to African American history. He always guided me with humor and kindness.
Julian not only inspired me in the making of Rosenwald, he delivered one of the best lines in the film that was edited towards film’s closing.
“You can look at the people who got grants from Julius Rosenwald, and say, these are the predecessor generation to the civil rights generation that I’m a part of. And I’m a predecessor generation to the Obama generation that resulted in the election of the first black president of the United States.”
When we appeared together to speak after the film, Bond loved to tell the story about his father, who was working for the Rosenwald Fund. His father, Horace Mann Bond, was once driving in the South when his car suddenly got stuck in a hole filled with mud. Julian’s father assumed that someone had put the mud there just so they could charge him money to be pulled out. Two African American men came out from behind the bushes and noticed that he was wearing nice clothes and was driving a nice car. When they asked whom Julian’s father was working for, he replied, “I work for the Rosenwald Fund”. The men responded, “Oh you work for Captain Julius? There’ll be no charge”.
Aviva Kempner and Julian Bond speaking at the Washington Jewish Film Fesitval. Photo credit: Aryeh Schwartz, Washington Jewish Film Festival
What I am most grateful is that Julian Bond and his beloved wife Pamela Horowitz became dear friends during the twelve years it took to finish the film. We were all looking forward to taking ROSENWALD all over the country to show how Julius Rosenwald’s vision for a better America was so needed today. Am happy that Julian, Rabbi David Saperstein and myself presented the film at the NAACP convention in Philadelphia on July 14 and he was able to hear the warm response to the film.
From now on all my introductions to the film will be dedicated to Julian Bond’s bravery and legacy. The country lost a great hero today and his legacy made for a better America.