Robert Bullard (Finding Aid)

Robert Bullard

1946 -

Favorite Color: Green

Favorite Food: Baked Chicken

Favorite Time of Year: Summer

Favorite Vacation Spot: Caribbean

Interview Length: 204 minutes

Interview Date(s): April 12, 2011

Interview Location(s): Atlanta, Georgia


Robert Bullard talks about his family background. His mother Myrtle Brundidge Bullard was born around 1910 in Opp, Alabama to Savannah Brundidge. She graduated from high school, but could not go to college due to lack of resources in the depression era. Bullard's paternal great grandparents, Peter and Lucinda Hammons (ph.) bought five hundred acres of timberland in 1875, which was passed down to Bullard's grandparents Minnie and Jim Brundidge. Later, Bullard's father inherited the land, which he managed, and he also worked under a white electrician.

Robert Bullard continues to talk about his parents and mentions that after they got married, his father worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Bullard grew up in Mulberry Heights, a neighborhood in Elba, Alabama. He attended Mulberry Heights Elementary School and a high school of the same name. Bullard's parents insisted upon eating healthy meals together as a family. Bullard enjoyed school, and a happy home life where he was always reading books. Bullard recalls some events of the Civil Rights Movement including the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Freedom Rides. His parents were very interested in local and world news and involved in the community and civil rights activities.

Robert Bullard begins by talking about his high school experience. His segregated high school was unique because the teachers were very motivated to educate the students about things like civil rights, which was not in the approved curriculum. Bullard graduated from high school in 1964 as salutatorian of his class. He chose to go to Alabama A&M University in Huntsville where he majored in history and government with a minor in sociology. Bullard finishes by talking about the influence of civil rights. Because Huntsville was isolated from the bigger cities like Birmingham and Montgomery, there was not much civil rights activity at A&M.

Robert Bullard talks about the student march that occurred at Alabama A&M University after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. After graduating from college, Bullard was quickly drafted into the Marine Corps where he served in North Carolina for two years at an air control station. He then went to Atlanta University in 1970 to earn his master's degree in sociology. Atlanta was a hub for black sociologists studying racial oppression, and W.E.B. DuBois was the founder of the sociology department at Atlanta University. After earning his master's degree, Bullard went to Iowa where his sister lived with her husband. He worked for the city doing community development and urban planning before enrolling at Iowa State University in Des Moines to pursue his Ph.D. degree.

Robert Bullard talks about his Ph.D. dissertation and the work that he did in the City of Des Moines. His research basically showed the effect of change with combination programs that addresses all of the key issues of a good neighborhood. In 1976, Bullard earned his Ph.D. from Iowa State University and went to teach at Texas Southern University in Houston. He talks about his book "Invisible Houston," which examined issues of racial discrimination in the largest black population in the South including environmental racism with items such as landfills in black communities. Because Houston did not have zoning regulations, eighty-two percent of landfills were placed in black communities even though blacks only represent twenty-five percent of the population.

Robert Bullard discusses his teaching positions within the University of California system and publication of his book "Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality," in 1990. This book was the first book on environmental justice. In recognition of his work, Bullard was invited to work at the National Wildlife Federation in Washington, D.C., for one year. He also organized the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, which was held in 1991. In light of the treatment of waste from the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill [in 2010], Bullard notes that the environmental justice efforts are not complete. Also in the early 1990s, Bullard met with William Reilly, administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, to put environmental justice on the national agenda. President Bill Clinton signed an executive order in 1994, defining environmental justice. That same year, Bullard established the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark-Atlanta University.

Robert Bullard begins by talking about the interplay between the environment and justice. In 2001, EPA director, Christine Todd Whitman, attempted to take race out of the executive order. Under President George W. Bush, the issue of race in the environment was dismissed, but President Obama appointed the first African American administrator of the EPA, Lisa P. Jackson, who developed an inter-agency holistic approach to environmentalism. Bullard reflects on his life's accomplishments and says that he would have liked to create more resources for graduate students and communities. He considers his legacy to be the idea that one can be a scholar, an activist, and a teacher at the same time. Bullard would like to be remembered for his idea of environmental justice and his publications. He also mentions his three children and their accolades.

58 Stories (See Ordered Story Set)