Next week marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy was mortally wounded by an assassin’s bullet shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, during a presidential campaign event at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California.
The year prior to his death, Kennedy visited the Mississippi Delta as part of a Senate subcommittee review of War on Poverty programs. While exploring the impoverished region, Kennedy made several unscheduled stops in an attempt to get a true picture of the situation and was stunned by what he witnessed, starving children and empty pantries, an unspoken epidemic of hunger.
Upon his return to Washington, Kennedy immediately began seeking ways to help the children he met during his visit; however, his efforts were met with institutional obstacles and largely blocked by powerful men who were indifferent to the plight of poor African-American children.
Kennedy’s efforts to help the children he met in Mississippi, in a way, became a continuation of his civil rights work. His visit to the Delta “opened his eyes to the real and painful consequences of generations of exploitation and oppression.” What he witnessed in Mississippi, he began to see elsewhere in America, “in the hills of Kentucky and the lettuce fields of California.”
In Delta Epiphany, with great detail and compassion, Ellen Meacham tells the story of Kennedy’s visit to the Mississippi Delta, examining the forces that shaped the lives of the children he met, and how the national attention Kennedy’s trip received would bring issues of hunger and poverty into the forefront of political discussions in the United States for years to come.
About the Author
Ellen Meacham is a Tennessee native and longtime resident of Mississippi. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years, and her work has appeared in the New York Times, among many other places. Currently, she teaches journalism at her alma mater, the University of Mississippi. Meacham worked as a news reporter in north Mississippi and at the Charleston, South Carolina, Post and Courier. In 2005, she was named an American Press Institute fellow and served her fellowship at the Baton Rouge Advocate.
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (April 2, 2018)
Review Notes: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.