Robert F. Kennedy predicted black presidency to the exact year
A lot of attention was paid to the fact that Barack Obama’s presidency happened 40 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Just as dramatic, though not nearly as well known, is the fact that civil rights champion Robert F. Kennedy made the bold proclamation in 1968 that there could be an African American president in 40 years.
“Things are moving so fast in race relations. A Negro could be President in 40 years. There is no question about it. In the next 40 years, a Negro can achieve the same position that my brother [John F. Kennedy] has,” said RFK, according to the Washington Post. “Prejudice exists and probably will continue to… but we have tried to make progress and we are making progress. We are not going to accept the status quo.”
Bobby Kennedy made that statement to an audience one week before his own assassination on June 5, 1968 and just two months after King was murdered in Memphis. According to Bobby Kennedy’s nephew, Rhode Island Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, RFK’s prediction so offended some white listeners at that time “that they walked out of the room.”
RFK’s statement is further corroborated by his youngest surviving daughter Kerry, who was interviewed in New York as the city renamed the Triborough Bridge in her father’s honor. “My father said this would happen,” she said. “You can look up the exact quote but he said that in 40 years an African-American would be President.”
RFK continues to be beloved in the black community because he became a powerful ally of the Civil Rights Movement during his reign as U.S. attorney general under his brother’s [John F. Kennedy] presidency until JFK’s assassination in November 1963.
Bobby Kennedy continued his advocacy of equality and improved race relations when he won the senate seat in New York (a seat, ironically, that niece Caroline Kennedy is now looking to fill four decades later). RFK had just won the California primary in the Democratic race for president when he gave a speech in that famous Los Angeles hotel that “it’s now onto Chicago and let’s win there.”
Bobby Kennedy never made it to Chicago as he was gunned down in the greasy hotel kitchen minutes after that speech. Barack Obama, however, did make it to Chicago, symbolically finishing what RFK started four decades earlier. –terry shropshire