Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

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Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
FounderEthel Kennedy
TypeOperating public charity
(IRS exemption status): 501(c)(3)
FocusHuman rights
  • Washington, D.C.
Methodadvocacy, awards, education
Key people

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (formerly the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, or RFK Center)[1] is an American nonprofit human rights advocacy organization.[2][better source needed] It was named after United States Senator Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, a few months after his assassination. The organization of leading attorneys, advocates, entrepreneurs and writers is dedicated to a more just and peaceful world, working alongside local activists to ensure lasting positive change in governments and corporations. It also promotes human rights advocacy through its RFK Human Rights Award, and supports investigative journalists and authors through the RFK Book and Journalism Awards. It is based in New York and Washington, D.C.[citation needed]


The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial was originally established as a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., in October, 1968. The Kennedy family and friends looked to memorialize Robert Kennedy's public service following his assassination on June 5, 1968, in Los Angeles, California. Fred Dutton, a long-time friend and Kennedy ally, was named executive director, and Peter B. Edelman, a member of Kennedy's senatorial staff, became associate director. The chairman of the executive committee was former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara.[citation needed]

The Memorial was announced during a press conference at Hickory Hill in McLean, Virginia, on Tuesday, October 29, 1968. Kennedy's brother Ted led the press conference, stating that the organization would be a "living memorial" that would work in areas of poverty, crime, and education in America. He went on to say the Memorial would be "an action-oriented program that we think will carry on his concerns, his actions, his efforts to work on so many of the problems in this country that have no solutions". He was joined at the press conference by his sisters, Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Jean Kennedy Smith, as well as dozens of Kennedy family friends and aides.[3]

Kennedy's widow Ethel Kennedy did not attend the press conference, but was nearby, in a second-floor bedroom of Hickory Hill on doctor's orders, awaiting the birth of her eleventh child. She issued a statement saying it was the hope of her husband's family and friends that the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial would carry forward the ideals he worked for during his lifetime: "He wanted to encourage the young people and to help the disadvantaged and discriminated against both here and abroad, and he wanted to promote peace in the world. These will be the goals of the memorial."[4]

The memorial and other projects started in Kennedy's memory were later collectively renamed Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.[5][better source needed]


Human Rights Award[edit]

The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award was created by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 1984 to honor individuals around the world who show courage and have made a significant contribution to human rights in their country.[citation needed]

In addition to receiving a financial award, laureates work with the organization on human rights-related projects. Since 1984, awards have been given to 43 individuals and organizations from 25 different countries.[citation needed] The 2009 award was presented by President Barack Obama.[6] In 2009, the RFK Human Rights began a partnership with the California International Law Center (CILC) at the University of California, Davis School of Law focusing on the crisis in Darfur.[7][better source needed]


Book Award[edit]

The Robert F. Kennedy Book Award was founded in 1980, with the proceeds from Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s biography, Robert Kennedy and His Times. Each year, the organization presents an award to the book which "most faithfully and forcefully reflects Robert Kennedy's purposes – his concern for the poor and the powerless, his struggle for honest and even-handed justice, his conviction that a decent society must assure all young people a fair chance, and his faith that a free democracy can act to remedy disparities of power and opportunity."[9][better source needed]


Journalism Award[edit]

The Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award was established in 1968 by a group of reporters covering Kennedy's presidential campaign and "honors those who report on issues that reflect Kennedy's concerns including human rights, social justice and the power of individual action in the United States and around the world."[10][better source needed] Entries include insights into the causes, conditions and remedies of injustice and critical analysis of relevant public policies, programs, attitudes and private endeavors.[citation needed]

Led by a committee of six independent journalists, the Awards are judged by more than fifty journalists each year. Previous winners include World News anchor Diane Sawyer.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ James Santel (December 16, 2014). "Introducing Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights". (Press release). Archived from the original on 2015-02-18. Retrieved 2021-06-10.
  2. ^ "Organization Overview". Archived from the original on January 3, 2012.
  3. ^ Staff Writer (October 30, 1968). "RFK Memorial Created" The Hartford Courant, p. 7.
  4. ^ Nan Robertson (October 30, 1968). "New Fund Honors Robert Kennedy: Family Plans Foundation to Advance His Ideals". The New York Times. pp. 1, 21.(subscription required)
  5. ^ "Explore the Life and Legacy of Robert F. Kennedy". Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. Archived from the original on 24 August 2016. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  6. ^ First Thoughts: No Pain, No Gain?, archived from the original on December 23, 2009, retrieved October 19, 2017
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-01-08. Retrieved 2009-12-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Human. "Adilur Rahman Khan". Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.
  9. ^ Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Human. "Book Award Winners". Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.
  10. ^ "Journalism Winners". Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. Retrieved 2019-04-19.

External links[edit]