Fighter for Human Rights: Tribute to Activist Randall Robinson

“People need their history like they need air and food.” ~ Randall Robinson

On March 24, 2023, Randall Robinson passed away at the age of 81, on a small island in St. Kitts. He was a civil rights attorney, human rights activist, and author. He spent his career fighting against apartheid in South Africa and for democracy in Haiti. Robinson founded the TransAfrica Forum in 1977 to help influence American foreign policy towards Africa and the Caribbean, as well as served as a spokesperson for issues relating to global human rights abuses and immigration reform. He published several works, including The Debt: What America Owes To Blacks (2001), The Reckoning: What Blacks Owe to Each Other (2002), and MAKEDA (2011).

Mr. Randall Robinson and his wife wait for the helicopter that will take them to the airport. They were here to attend the inauguration ceremony of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide who was returned as President of Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy and Operation Restore Democracy. Mr. Robinson staged a hunger strike during the former U.S. policy on Haiti. (NAID 6503542)

Randall Maurice Robinson was born on July 6, 1941, in Richmond, Virginia to schoolteachers Maxie Cleveland Robinson, Sr. and Doris (Griffin) Robinson. His older brother, Max Robinson, was the longtime anchor for ABC News. Robinson graduated from Virginia Union University with a degree in sociology in 1967, and earned a J. D. degree from Harvard Law School in 1970. Early in his career, Robinson was a Ford Foundation fellow in Tanzania and worked as a civil rights attorney for the Boston Legal Assistance Project. Robinson was also a speechwriter for Congressman William L. Clay (D-MO) and an administrative assistant (Chief of Staff) for Congressman Charles Diggs (D-MI). In addition to serving as President of TransAfrica, Robinson taught human rights law at Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law, where in 2016, he was named Distinguished Scholar in Residence.

President Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office with TransAfrica Founder Randall Robinson, 08/09/1979, White House Staff Photograph Collection, LP-JC NAID 840402

In his role as President of TransAfrica, Randall interacted with several US presidents, and many of these meetings are documented in records held at the National Archives and at the Presidential Libraries. RG 517 Sound Recordings of Radio Programs, Speeches, and Special Events (NAID 40432506) holds sound recordings of Randall Robinson that includes him discussing his book “The Debt” (NAID 28624402) and participating in a forum on March 10, 1998 (NAID 286249612). Also, within President Jimmy Carter’s and President Bill Clinton’s presidential records, there are files, memorandums, and remarks of Randall’s activities with TransAfrica that are found in the series Louis Martin’s Files (NAID 140949), Antony Blinken’s Files (NAID 7585787), and the Lorraine Miller’s Files (NAID 3696566).

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