I decided to start researching Robert F. Kennedy and his assassination. Although his death was in 1968, I decided it would be important to understand who he was before then, and his life before running for office and his assassination. I broke up a two-hour long documentary between Tuesday and Thursday for a general idea of who he was, because I didn’t know much about him before. I plan on taking parts of this and focusing on specific aspects of Kennedy. This is a synopsis of his life:
RFK was born into a large family, with four sisters and two older brothers, one of which who we would later know as John F. Kennedy. Though the documentary talked about his childhood a lot, I don’t feel as though it is important to my research. As a young adult his father hooked him up with a job with Senator Joseph McCarthy, a controversial figure in politics. They worked together for 6 months in a mentor-mentee relationship. McCarthy was very anti-communist and had a “crusade” against communism, which Kennedy helped with. After those 6 months, Kennedy worked with JFK as a lawyer, focused on taking down mobsters and corrupt labor unions. However, he resigned in 1959 to help with JFK’s presidential campaign. After he won, John appointed Robert as the attorney general, a position he may have not been qualified for, though he was a hard worker and succeeded. Kennedy had a personal war with Cuba, more specifically Castro. This was after the failed Bay of Pigs attempt, and after that, the Kennedy brothers tried to have Castro assassinated many times, none of which worked. This goes back to him being very much against communism.
Moving forward to 1961, the Freedom Riders were starting to get more powerful in Alabama. Kennedy was not a social activist, to say the least. He wasn’t overtly against the Freedom riders, but he was getting pressured from white elite southerners to do something about the growing opposition. Kennedy decided to send in protection for the Riders while they rode deeper into Alabama. However, a riot occurred as they got off the bus, started by protesters of the Riders. During the riot, journalists were beat up, some who were personal friends of Kennedy. This is when he started to get involved. Overtime, he seemed to become more and more involved in talking about Civil Rights, urging his brother, the president to pass the Civil Rights bill. In 1963, JFK was assassinated and some time after, Kennedy resigned as the attorney general and decided to run for political office, something he had never done before. He ran for senator and won, with the help of LBJ, the Vice President under JFK, now turned President. While LBJ was in office, he escalated the already on going war with Vietnam, which Kennedy was against. Kennedy wanted talks to happen, rather than ruthless bombing which LBJ was doing.
During this time, Kennedy was becoming more involved with America’s minorities as a senator. He visited some poor African American communities and tried to help, making plans to better them. His plans focused on access to jobs, since he was fundamentally against the idea of welfare. He believed that they could succeed through investment. 1967 came, and it was the year before the next election. Many Americans, especially college students who were fed up with LBJ and the Vietnam War urged Kennedy to run. By then, Kennedy had publicly stated his dissupport of the war, though to many, he had seemed like a perfect candidate. In early 1968, Kennedy publicly announced he would not run, “under any foreseeable circumstances”. However, that same day, multiple attacks were launched in Vietnam against the US, resulting in hundreds of GIs dying, and more being injured. Soon after, he announced he was going to run.
During Kennedy’s campaign, he got a lot of support, even amongst conservative whites, a demographic he was not counting on. One of his main goals throughout his campaign was to end the war. He was visiting many states and doing well in primaries, until one night after a speech in a hotel in Los Angeles, he was shot dead.
Before dying, he began his campaign in 1968 focusing on helping out the poor and working class, with a focus on racial minorities. I think I will delve further into what his goals were while running, and how he truly wanted to help the Civil Rights cause in 1968. People have wondered what he may or may not have accomplished if he won the presidency and did not die. The link has transcribed parts of the documentary where different people who knew him have talked about it. I am interested in this and may go further into what he would have done.
American Experience: RFK. Grubin, David. 2004.
Leffler, Warren K. “Demo[cratic] Nat[iona]l Conv[ention]. Bobby & Ethel Kennedy. Boardwalk.” Library of Congress, 1964, https://www.loc.gov/item/2016646570/
“What If?” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/rfk-what-if/