Archival Collections
Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Max J. and Ruth Clement Bond papers, 1912-2004 bulk 1930-1990 

Creator: 
Bond, J. Max,
Phys. Desc: 
32 linear feet (32 linear feet 42 Boxes: 17 document boxes 23 record cartons 1 oversized box)
Call Number: 
MS#1473
Location: 
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
View CLIO Record and Request Material >>

Online information

Biographical Note

James Max Bond, Sr. and Ruth Elizabeth Clement Bond, husband and wife, both hailed from prominent and well-educated African-American families. J. Max Bond, Sr., State Department and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) official and president of the University of Liberia, was born in Nashville, Tennessee on September 15, 1902. His father, James M. Bond (1863-1929), a Congressional Minister and community leader served as the first director of the Kentucky Commission on Interracial Cooperation. After graduating from the Oberlin College Theological Seminary in 1893, James Bond married Jane A. Browne, who was also a graduate of Oberlin. Together they had six children, including Max Sr. Ruth Elizabeth Clement was born in Louisville, Kentucky on May 22, 1904. Her father, George Clinton Clement was a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; in 1946 her mother, Emma Clarissa Williams Clement, became the first African-American woman to be named American Mother of the Year. Both of Ruth's parents were graduates of Livingstone College and her father also had an LL.D. from Wilberforce University. Ruth was one of seven children. Max Sr. graduated from the High School Department of Simmons University in Louisville, Kentucky in 1921 and attended the Lincoln Institute. After graduation, he moved to Chicago, where, from 1922 to 1926, he earned his B.P.E. from George Williams College (known today as Roosevelt University). While pursuing his degree, Max also worked as the director of the Oakland School Playground from 1923 until 1925. From 1926 to 1928 he was employed as physical education director at the Pittsburgh YMCA, before earning an M.A. in Education and Educational Administration at the University of Pittsburgh in 1930. Between 1929 and 1931 Max also served as the director of the Kentucky Interracial Commission. Ruth, like her parents, attended Livingstone College, but received both her B.A. (1925) and an M.A. (1930) from Northwestern University where she majored in English Literature and Sociology. In the years between acquiring her degrees, Ruth taught English at Louisville Central High School and from 1930 to 1932 she was head of the English Department at Kentucky State College. In 1931 Max and Ruth Clement married and moved to Los Angeles where Max was enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Southern California (USC). Although Ruth also began graduate studies at USC, she suspended her formal academic pursuits shortly after the birth of the Bonds' first child in 1933. Max received his Ph.D. in Sociology in 1936 with a dissertation entitled "The Negro in Los Angeles." Upon obtaining his doctorate, Max embarked on a career as an educator. His first position, from 1934-1938, was with the Tennessee Valley Authority as Director of Negro Personnel and Education. Ruth became known for her Tennessee Valley Authority quilt designs, which were sewn by the wives of African-American men who built dams for the TVA in the mid-1930s. Next, Max served as Dean of Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana (1938-1940); from 1940-1944 he was employed as as Dean of the School of Education at the Tuskegee Institute (today Tuskegee University). In 1944 the first of Max and Ruth's foreign sojourns began: Max accepted a job with the US State Department's Inter-American Educational Foundation in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where he served as director of the educational mission and Ruth was on the faculty of L'Ecole Normale de Martissant. The Bonds left Haiti in 1947 when Max was appointed Dean of the Graduate School of Education of Clark Atlanta University. In 1950 the State Department sent the Bonds to Liberia, where Max, following a reorganization of the University of Liberia, became the university's first President and Ruth headed the English Department. The Bonds enjoyed a close working relationship with Liberian President William Tubman. Max's stint in Liberia lasted until 1955, at which point he began his work as an official in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Max's first appointment was as Education Advisor to Afghanistan's Minister of Education; next he took up a similar role in Tunisia. Just as he had done in Liberia, Max played a role in the reorganization of Kabul University and the University of Tunis. In 1960 the Bonds returned to the United States, taking up residence in Washington, D.C. briefly, before spending a year in Sierra Leone. Max's final tour of duty was in Nyasaland (now Malawi), where he organized teacher training programs. Following his retirement in 1966, Max joined Ruth in becoming active in community issues in the D.C. area. During the 1960s Ruth served as President of the African-American Women's Association, and in 1978 she was part of a National Council of Negro Women fact-finding mission that studied the role of women in Senegal, Togo, and the Ivory Coast. Other educators in the extended Clement and Bond families included Ruth's brother, Rufus Early Clement, and Max Sr.'s brother, Horace Mann Bond. Rufus E. Clement was a long-time president of Atlanta University. Horace Bond, author of The Education of the Negro in American Social Order, served as the first African-American President of Lincoln University, as well as the head of the Bureau of Education and Social Research at Atlanta University. He also co-founded the Africa-America Institute, an organization with which Max Sr. and Ruth were closely involved. The Bonds had three children, all of whom followed their parents' educational lead. Jane Emma Clement Bond (b. 1933), who received her Ph.D. from University College, London University, became a professor of European History and Modern France at Baruch College; J. Max Bond, Jr. (1935-2009), an architect and Columbia University professor, was a graduate of Harvard University; and George Clement Bond (b. 1936), obtained his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and was the Director of the Institute for African Studies at Columbia University, as well as a Professor of Anthropology at Teachers College. Max died in 1991and Ruth in 2005.

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the papers of J. Max Bond, Sr. (1902-1991), educator, State Department and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) official and president of the University of Liberia, and Ruth Clement Bond (1904-2005), chair of the English Department at Kentucky State College and at the University of Liberia, and president of the African-American Women’s Association. The collection includes extensive family and professional correspondence, writings, and documents relating to educational, political, community and civil rights organizations in which the Bonds participated. The collection also contains photographs and ephemera. The J. Max and Ruth Clement Bond Papers consist of the personal and professional writings, correspondence, photographs, and financial and legal records of the couple. Of particular interest are Max Bond's professional documents and reports, and correspondence related to education in, and United States assistance to, African nations, especially Liberia and Nyasaland (present-day Malawi). The collection also includes a large amount of printed material related not only to Max Bond's career with the University of Liberia, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the US Department of State, but also to the couple's wide commitment to civil rights, political activism, and various community organizations. Among these printed materials, particularly well represented organizations are the African-American Institute and the many women's organizations with which Ruth Bond worked, including the Association of American Foreign Service Women, Church Women United, and International Women's Year, 1975.