Our Story

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights was created in 1968 to carry on the legacy and forge ahead with the unfinished work―all in pursuit of the dream of a more just and peaceful world.

The scope and reach of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights has expanded substantially over the years, yet since its inception the organization has remained focused on the protection of civic space―the freedoms of assembly, association, and expression; the right to dissent without fear of reprisal or persecution; the most basic of rights upon which all others are based.

RFK Human Rights partners with frontline advocates in all corners of the globe to ensure freedom of civic activism, hold leaders accountable, and speak truth to power at every turn. Over the years, we have launched human rights education and engaged the business community in pursuit of our goals. We have fought for racial justice, economic justice, and criminal justice reform. And we have protected women from violence and helped young people who might otherwise be overlooked become the leaders of tomorrow.

As you scroll through the first fifty years of our history, you will see some of the work we have done to bring about lasting and essential change.

“This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.”

Robert F. Kennedy
Sen. Edward Kennedy, with sisters Patricia Kennedy Lawford, left, and Jean Kennedy Smith, right, announcing plans to create the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation, Oct. 29, 1968, McLean, Virginia. © AP Photo.

The Kennedy Family Shares Their Vision

Our story begins here… October 29, 1968. On the lawn of Hickory Hill, Ethel Kennedy and Sen. Edward Kennedy—joined by his sisters, Mrs. Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Mrs. Jean Kennedy Smith—announce the Kennedy family’s plan to create a ten-million dollar Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation. The goal: to build on RFK’s legacy by continuing to advocate for a more just and peaceful world.