Home Entertainment Robert Kennedy’s path from son of privilege to civil rights ally

Robert Kennedy’s path from son of privilege to civil rights ally


Sullivan reminds us that many civil rights activists were initially skeptical of Kennedy. Some never forgave his early backing for Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee, support that Kennedy later deeply regretted. Sullivan recounts a remarkable meeting in 1963 where Kennedy hosted the essayist and novelist James Baldwin, the actress Lena Horne, the playwright Lorraine Hansberry, the singer Harry Belafonte, the sociologist Kenneth Clark, and a member of the Congress for Racial Equality, Jerome Smith. Kennedy did not impress the group: At one point Hansberry lamented that “you and your brother represent the best a white America has to offer. If you’re insensitive, there’s no alternative to the streets and chaos.” Later, Baldwin joined other progressives such as Paul Newman and Gore Vidal in backing Kennedy’s Republican rival Kenneth Keating in the Senate election of 1964.

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