Robert F Kennedy was born into a wealthy family in 1925. Although they were in the Great Depression, his family never faced poverty like many Americans around them. The reason behind how exactly they got their fortune is very interesting. It would later be a surprising turn of events that Kennedy would focus on the country’s poverty problem when it had never affected him personally. Although the country was struggling financially, WWII was a major success for the economy. Before, there was concern that the economy would not get better after its plummet in 1929. Similar to Lyndon Johnson’s accomplishments being blinded by the Vietnam War, Herbert Hoover’s legacy as a president was overshadowed by the Great Depression. Poverty rates decreased by 21% between 1935 and 1950. It would decrease by another 6% from 1950 to 1960. Because of the prosperity, not much attention was paid to the country’s poverty. Although poverty had been significantly reduced over the 25 years, much of it was disproportionately racialized. There was a direct correlation between race and wealth. More black families were below the poverty line than white families. However, when it came to racial issues, many politicians did not think much about them, instead deciding to focus on foreign relations. Kennedy was one them, especially during the 1950s.
With John F. Kennedy running for office for the 1960 election, Robert was at his side, as his campaign manager. Although he was helping his brother, Americans were seeing RFK as someone who would later enter politics in the future. During the beginnings of Robert getting more into the public arena of politics, he was originally very moderate when it came to issues dealing with Civil Rights. Even though he was a democrat, he avoided taking strong progressive sides of topics such as desegregation. In Mississippi, where Jim Crow laws were just starting to end, politicians in favor of segregation believed Kennedy to be temperate and did not have a problem with him. Though they conservative Republicans liked him, many African Americans were not in support of his lack of contribution. The democratic party needed more strong leaders who would help combat racial inequality, but Kennedy was not showing himself to be one of them. During JFK’s campaign, they realized black Americans were the key to helping them succeed in the polls. When polls showed that Nixon, John’s opponent was having more success with black voters they realized they needed to take more firm approaches to the issue. Essentially, they needed the black vote.
Appealing to black voters became a necessity, so the Kennedy team made an effort to reach out more to minorities. They saw a benefit in meeting with racial minority groups and their leaders. This helped with John’s popularity throughout the country. In addition to African Americans, RFK would meet with Native Americans and other minorities in America. Their work would prove to be successful when John F. Kennedy would go on to win the presidency. Although RFK was only the attorney general to his brother during John’s presidency, and he had not yet begun his own campaign, a lot of his realizations of poverty came during this time.
The last part of my research now is to look at RFK during JFK’s presidency, and finally to look at the ways Robert himself planned to combat racism. When running for president, he made many efforts to meet with people living in poverty, which is also what I will look at. From there, I plan to start putting together my final project, as mentioned in my last post.
Schmitt, Edward R. President of the Other America: Robert Kennedy and the Politics of Poverty. Amherst, Univ Of Massachusetts Pr, 2011.
Anonymous. Robert F Kennedy pass:[*]*****FLOPPED******. Edited by PEC, Apr. 2008.EBSCOhost,search.ebscohost.com/login.aspxdirect=true&db=apg&AN=9eae9e11dd4b4e368de7dd888bd76700&site=ehost-live.
S, N.XMB, editor. Rose And Joseph Kennedy Family 1938. Mar. 2010. EBSCOhost,search.ebscohost.com/login.aspxdirect=true&db=apg&AN=b8f66fba3dcf4ef7a3eff4f00cc7cc3b&site=ehost-live.