Run Bobby Run - The Movie

Jerome Smith


From Wikipedia

Jerome Smith was a young black civil rights worker who had been beaten and jailed in Mississippi. Edwin Berry brought him along, and his story was not known by Robert Kennedy or most of those in attendance. As the meeting got underway and Robert Kennedy began to recount how the Justice Department had been supporting the civil rights movement, Jerome Smith suddenly began to weep "as if he'd just suffered some traumatic flashback" and said: "I've seen you guys [referring to the Justice Department] stand around and do nothing more than take notes while we're being beaten." The mood quickly became tense. Jerome Smith, Baldwin later said, set the tone of the meeting because he stammers when he's upset and he stammered when he talked to Bobby and said that he was nauseated by the necessity of being in that room. I knew what he meant. It was not personal at all. ... Bobby took it personally. Bobby took it personally and turned away from him. That was a mistake because he turned toward us. We were the reasonable, responsible, mature representatives of the Black community. Lorraine Hansberry said, "You've got a great many very, very accomplished people in this room, Mr. Attorney General. But the only man who should be listened to is that man over there."

Kennedy and Smith began to argue. Kennedy was particularly shocked when Smith said he would "never never never" join the military to fight against Cuba for the USA. The assembled group felt, generally, that Kennedy did not understand the depth of the problem at hand. Less than one month later, President Kennedy gave his landmark Civil Rights Address. Kennedy was the only White House adviser to actively encourage his brother to give the speech, in which the president publicly proposed legislation that would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Revisiting the issue of military service, Robert Kennedy later asked the Senate Judiciary Committee: "How long can we say to a Negro in Jackson, 'When war comes you will be an American citizen, but in the meantime you're a citizen of Mississippi—and we can't help you'?"

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