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Tuesday, April 19th
6 — 8 p.m.
Justice Rising: A Conversation between Judge Richard Gergel and Author Pat Sullivan
Karen J. Williams Courtroom, University of South Carolina School of Law : 1525 Senate Street, Columbia, SC 29201
UofSC will host a special event featuring a conversation between historian and author Patricia Sullivan and U.S. District Court Judge and author Richard Gergel. Not only will the talk mark 59 years since Robert Kennedy’s visit to the university and the law school, but it also will include discussion on Robert Kennedy’s life, the civil rights movement, and the racial transformation of the 1960s. Pre-order Patricia Sullivan's book Justice Rising for the event!
When Attorney General Robert Kennedy spoke at the University of South Carolina in April 1963, America’s racial crisis was at a critical turning point. Martin Luther King, Jr. had just launched his campaign in Birmingham and James Baldwin had recently published The Fire Next Time, a penetrating examination of the explosive consequences of racial discrimination and injustice in America. In his address at the University of South Carolina, Kennedy captured the urgency of the moment, for the South and for the nation at large. “Time is running out fast for this country,” he warned.
A week later, images of Birmingham’s police using dogs and high-pressure fire hoses to assault hundreds of protesting Black youth were televised nationally, igniting waves of demonstrations and protests in cities across the country. The crisis in Birmingham prompted the Kennedy administration to draft and introduce far-reaching civil rights legislation, which culminated with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Robert Kennedy was among the few national officials to realize that, as critical as a civil rights law would be, it could not remedy a racial crisis which he described as “100 years in the making.”
Patricia Sullivan and Judge Gergel will discuss Robert Kennedy’s relationship not only to the civil rights movement, but to what he came to see as “the revolution within our gates,” the struggle of African Americans “for full equality and full freedom,” an unfinished struggle.
Sullivan and Gergel offer their insights as noted authorities on civil rights history. Sullivan, a professor of history at UofSC’s College of Arts and Sciences, authored Justice Rising: Robert Kennedy’s America in Black and White, an account of Robert Kennedy’s life and legacy regarding civil rights recently published by Harvard University Press. In addition to serving as a United States district judge, Gergel is author of the widely acclaimed book, Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard, that recounts how the blinding of Sergeant Isaac Woodward changed the course of America’s civil rights history.
The conversation will take place in the Karen J. Williams Courtroom, University of South Carolina School of Law, at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19. A reception and book signing will follow. This event is sponsored by the School of Law, the College of Arts and Sciences, the History Center, the Humanities Collaborative, and Historic Columbia.
Praise For Justice Rising
"Sullivan’s brilliant and beautifully written biography of Robert Kennedy could hardly be more timely. Focusing on Kennedy’s engagement with the African-American freedom struggle, it arrives in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests that demanded renewed public attention to institutional racism in the U.S. and elsewhere. A privileged white man who came to embrace the cause of racial justice as his own, Kennedy offers a model of how to be an anti-racist ally.”—Daniel Geary, The Irish Times
“Justice Rising is a profound and uplifting account of Robert F. Kennedy’s brave crusade for racial equality. This is narrative history at its absolute finest, with RFK squarely at the center of the 1960s civil rights movement along with Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, César Chávez, and other fearless activists. Bare-knuckled, with a golden heart, RFK was a visionary force to reckon with. This towering biographical portrait will stand the test of time. Highly recommended!”—Douglas Brinkley, author of Rosa Parks
“This is a groundbreaking book that reorients our understanding of a surprisingly underexplored aspect of Robert Kennedy’s life and career—race and civil rights—and sheds new light on race relations during a pivotal era of American history. Some readers, especially in our current racial moment, may be skeptical of Kennedy’s importance, but Patricia Sullivan delivers a nuanced and informative portrait of Kennedy as one of the central players in the evolving drama of ’60s-era race relations. He remains an iconic figure, with his assassination shortly after that of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. forever freezing his public image as a symbol of the unrealized potential of late-1960s politics.”—Kenneth Mack, author of Representing the Race
“Profoundly researched, vividly written, Justice Rising is a monumental reconsideration of RFK’s bold vision and creative strategies in the bitter climate of white supremacy. As the struggle continues, this is the book we ALL need now!”—Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt
“This magisterial history of how the social movements of the 1960s turned Robert Kennedy into a crusader for racial justice and great progressive president-in-the-making is timely. Patricia Sullivan has written the definitive book on the courageous and visionary leadership of the complex and ever-growing Robert Kennedy.”—Cornel West
“Patricia Sullivan’s magnificent book brings Robert Kennedy’s grace, moral leadership, and wisdom to a new generation of Americans who seek solutions to the same challenges that he so boldly confronted. Few American politicians have displayed such profound moral vision or such a stunning capacity to inspire others to take on the deep challenges facing the nation. His assassination cut short his quest for national healing, and our vast inequalities and racial divisions persist to this day. Justice Rising is an important book at an important moment in America.”—Jeffrey Sachs, author of The End of Poverty
“Justice Rising is a brilliant exploration of Robert Kennedy’s deep immersion in the civil rights–Black Power Movement. The interactions between RFK’s public life and the wide-ranging racial reckoning of the 1960s come alive in new and compelling ways in this engrossing narrative. Equally impressive, this insightful work deepens our understanding of the intertwined political and racial worlds of the 1960s. It is a stunning achievement.”—Waldo Martin, coauthor of Black against Empire
Image Courtesy of Richland Library