Patricia Sullivan

Cindy Seip

Patricia Sullivan is a history professor and author. Her books include Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era; Freedom Writer: Virginia Foster Durr, Letters from the Civil Rights Years; and Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement. Her tome Justice Rising: Robert Kennedy’s America in Black and White (Belknap Press) is a landmark reconsideration of Kennedy’s life and legacy. Drawing on government files, personal papers, and oral interviews, Sullivan argues that he grasped the moment to emerge as a transformational leader and places him at the center of the movement for racial justice of the 1960s. When protests broke out across the South, he confronted escalating demands for racial justice. What began as a political problem soon became a moral one. In the face of vehement pushback from Southern Democrats, he put the weight of the federal government behind school desegregation and voter registration. When the Watts uprising brought calls for more aggressive policing, he pushed back himself, pointing to the root causes of urban unrest: entrenched poverty, substandard schools, and few job opportunities. The Washington Post celebrated it as “a moving and enlightening account of a life of public service marked by ambition and marred by serious errors in judgment, but more than redeemed by a sincere, powerful and enduring commitment to social justice.”