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How Robert Kennedy Became A Civil Rights Hero21:30
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Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy talks with civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., at the White House on June 22, 1963. (Bob Schutz/AP)
Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy talks with civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., at the White House on June 22, 1963. (Bob Schutz/AP)

June 5 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy. The presidential candidate was shot and killed as he entered the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Kennedy had just celebrated winning California’s Democratic presidential primary. Kennedy ran on the belief that he could unite the country. Here's an excerpt moment from his Los Angeles speech:

What I think is quite clear is that we can work together in the last analysis and what has been going on in the United States over the period of the last three years, the division, the violence, the disenchantment with our society. The division whether it's between the white and blacks no, between the poor and the more affluent or between the age groups in Vietnam. That we can start to work together. We are a great country and a selfish country and a compassionate country and I intend to make that my basis for running.

Kennedy may be remembered today as a progressive champion of racial equality. But he, too had blind spots and prejudices about the realities of racism.

Kennedy was forced to confront those blind spots in a 1963 meeting with black artists and activists in Manhattan. According to Michael Eric Dyson, it was that meeting that helped lead Kennedy to see racism as more than a political problem, but as a "moral rot at the heart of American empire."

Michael Eric Dyson will be speaking at the First Parish Church on June 6 and 'Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes, Feeling Heart' will be screening at the Museum of Fine Arts on June 9. 

Guest

Michael Eric Dyson, author of "What Truth Sounds Like: RFK, James Baldwin, And Our Unfinished Conversation About Race In America." He is also a Georgetown University sociology professor and writer. He tweets @michaeledyson.

This segment aired on June 5, 2018.

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