Robert F. Kennedy, Race and Politics During the 1960s

African American Heritage  •  History

In an address to the University of Capetown in South Africa in 1966, Robert F. Kennedy declared: “The road toward equality of freedom is not easy, and great cost and danger march alongside us… Still, even in the turbulence of protest and struggle is greater hope for the future, as men learn to claim and achieve for themselves the rights formerly petitioned by others.”

VFH Fellow Patricia Sullivan traces Kennedy’s own road to working with the civil rights movement in the United States, chronicling the evolution in his thought through the 1960s—on the campaign trail for his brother John F. Kennedy, as Attorney General, as a Senator, and during his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968. Sullivan argues that the conditions of African American life in the 1960s profoundly influenced his public life and political leadership.

Patricia Sullivan

Patricia Sullivan is a professor of history at the University of South Carolina. Her books include Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement and Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era. She is co-director of an NEH Summer Institute at Harvard University on African American Struggles for Freedom and Citizenship.