Documenting the American South Logo
Loading
Collections >> North American Slave Narratives >> Document Menu >> Summary

Dan. A. Rudd (Daniel Arthur), b. 1854 and Theo. Bond, b. 1879
From Slavery to Wealth. The Life of Scott Bond. The Rewards of Honesty, Industry, Economy and Perseverance
Madison, Ark.: The Journal printing company, 1917.

Summary

Scott Bond was born in the early 1850s to an enslaved mother named Ann who worked in the Maben-Bond household near Canton, Mississippi. His father was the nephew of a white slave-owner to whom Bond's mother had temporarily been hired out as a domestic servant. Just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, Bond and his mother were moved to Arkansas, along with his step-father, William Bond, and the rest of the Maben-Bond family's slaves. After Emancipation, Bond lived with his step-father until age twenty-two, when he "undertook to vouch for himself" and began work on his lifelong goal of becoming a successful businessman (p. 37). Bond accomplished this goal. At the time of his death he owned and farmed 12,000 acres, while also raising livestock and operating a large mercantile store, at least five cotton gins, a gravel pit, a lumber yard, and a saw mill. A member of the National Negro Business League, Bond supported the efforts of Booker T. Washington, whose philosophies regarding the social advancement of African Americans through economic and agricultural success mirrored Bond's own. In 1877, he married Magnolia Nash, with whom he had eleven sons. Bond was killed in March 1933 by one of his registered bulls. According to his son, Ulysses, he "went down swinging and died among the things he loved" (p. 152).

Daniel Arthur Rudd (1854-1933) worked as an accountant for Scott Bond and coauthored From Slavery to Wealth with Bond's second son, Theophilus. Prior to his arrival in Arkansas, Rudd was a newspaper editor and a Catholic lay leader in Ohio. Convinced that Catholicism could promote social progress for African Americans, Rudd established the Ohio State Tribune in 1844 and renamed it the American Catholic Tribune in 1886. It would later become the longest-running African American Catholic newspaper in the country. In Arkansas, Rudd worked as an accountant and business manager for Bond and another African American farmer and focused his efforts on the advancement of African American business. Theophilus Bond joined his father in managing Scott Bond's business ventures along with two of his brothers—Waverly T. and Ulysses S. He was also a participant in the National Negro Business League.

While Rudd and Theophilus Bond wrote all of From Slavery to Wealth, most of the book's sixty-nine chapters are presented as first-person vignettes told directly by Scott Bond, with editorial comments from Rudd and Theophilus Bond interspersed throughout. These tales provide a wide-ranging, detailed survey of Scott Bond's business ventures and accomplishments, as well as his family life, but the chapters do not present a chronological narrative. This technique downplays his personal life and makes Scott Bond's public successes as an African American businessman the focus of the biography. These successes repeatedly illustrate his belief that "The origin of an individual by no means indicates the possibilities of his life" (p. 358). From Slavery to Wealth thus presents Scott Bond's personal philosophy of hard work and fortitude as a model of advancement available to all African Americans.

Like Booker T. Washington, Bond promotes African American success through the unique opportunities inherent in southern agriculture. In an address to the National Negro Business League, Bond asserts that he wishes to "call attention to the power the Negro has in his hands if he will use it, to master the entire world along economic lines" (p. 347). The key to African American potential, Bond believes, lies in the South: "providence has prepared the south for us. We are the only nationality on the globe that can master the situation properly . . . I believe the south to be the natural home of our race" (p. 248). He refers to Washington as "the Moses who would lead the Negro to the promised land" and convinces Washington to hold the 1911 annual session of the National Negro Business League in Arkansas (p. 369).

Bond's business successes are often hard-won against doubtful investors, devious competitors, and outright racial prejudice. Many chapters are devoted to outlining individual business ventures, from crop cultivation and logging, to building a cotton gin and aggressively negotiating with a railroad company over the sale of gravel from one of his properties. Each of these stories follows a general pattern: Bond proposes a way to expand his agricultural or mercantile holdings; he is turned down by potential investors or thwarted by industry rivals; and then he ultimately triumphs by persevering and outmaneuvering the competition. Bond repeatedly proves himself a strategic businessman, working through both diplomacy and trickery, transforming obstacles into advantages and enjoying the challenge: "Whenever I could strike a man and surprise him as to my ability, I always felt that that alone was big pay" (p. 94).

While Bond's is primarily a story of economic advancement, the authors also include several instances of racial passing, episodes in which Bond travels outside of his hometown and is mistaken for a white man. The most significant instance is during his stay in Ravenden Springs. In this case, Bond not only allows the management of the first-class hotel to assume that he is white, but he also evades detection by joining in a discussion about "the Negro" among other hotel patrons. Bond felt he "could not afford to give myself away, so I told them I thought the Negro was all right in his place, and that I . . . considered the Negro the best labor on earth to handle cotton" (p. 305). Although Bond includes many instances of pride in his African American heritage—including refusing to ride in white designated railroad cars and donating land for an African American cemetery—Bond's reluctance to identify as black in Ravenden Springs reveals deeply ingrained associations between social status and whiteness. Bond is aware of the dangers posed to African Americans who cross social and class boundaries, but he is loathe to lose the benefits that his perceived whiteness conveys.

On the whole, however, Bond's narrative celebrates the "great strides made by the Negro," which have "opened his eyes to the possibilities of advancement and convinced him that merit can and will compel its reward" (p. 370). From Slavery to Wealth is, ultimately, a story of progress with a view towards the future and works to promote a common goal: "When individual effort is melted into teamwork, racial solidarity in economic action will be the outcome and the Negro will take his proper place in the commercial and civic life of the nation he clothes and helps to feed" (p. 382).

Works Cited: "A Guide to the Microfilm Edition of Records of the National Negro Business League," in Black Studies Research Sources: Microfilms from Major Archival and Manuscript Collections, available from LexisNexis, online database, (accessed December 10, 2007); Bond, Ulysses S., "Highlights in the Life of Scott Bond," Arkansas Historical Quarterly 21 (Summer 1962): 146-152; Davis, Cyprian, "Rudd, Daniel," in American National Biography Online, online database, (accessed November 14, 2007); Gordon, Fon Louise, "Scott Winfield Bond" in The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, online database, (accessed December 10, 2007).

Jenn Williamson

Document menu