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RFK In The Land Of Apartheid: A Ripple Of Hope

Airs Monday, August 22, 2011 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Robert Kennedy with Ethel Kennedy in Soweto, South Africa, 1966.

Using never before seen archival footage, and interviews in South Africa and the United States, filmmakers Larry Shore and Tami Gold tell the unknown story of Robert Kennedy's 1966 visit to South Africa during the worst years of Apartheid.

Robert Kennedy delivers his famous "Day of Affirmation" speech at the University of Cape Town.
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Above: Robert Kennedy delivers his famous "Day of Affirmation" speech at the University of Cape Town.

The film evokes the connections between the American Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa. The filmmakers find witness to this special moment in time through the sights and sounds of present day South Africa.

"RFK In The Land Of Apartheid" follows Senator Kennedy to the site of his famous “Ripple of Hope” speech at the University of Cape Town and his encounter with Afrikaans students at Stellenbosch, the pro-Apartheid university.

Robert Kennedy with Chief Albert Luthuli, 1966.
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Above: Robert Kennedy with Chief Albert Luthuli, 1966.

Ripple Of Hope Quote

"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." - Robert Kennedy, June 6, 1966, Cape Town, Africa

A high point of the film is Kennedy's meeting with one of the unknown giants of African history - the banned President of the African National Congress, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Chief Albert Lutuli - living under house arrest in a remote rural area.

The film travels with Robert Kennedy to Soweto, South Africa's largest black township, where he meets thousands of people and gives voice to Chief Lutuli's silenced call for a free South Africa.

We witness Kennedy publicly challenging the dominant Cold War ideology that anti-Communism, espoused by repressive regimes like that in South Africa, should be the only factor determining American foreign policy.

With an original sound track by American musician Jason Moran and voices from the University of Cape Town Africa Choir, the film tells an unusual story through the words and actions of an American politician whose legacy continues to advance human rights around the world.

"RFK In The Land Of Apartheid: A Ripple Of Hope" is on Facebook.

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Video Excerpt: RFK In The Land Of Apartheid: A Ripple Of Hope

Above: Featuring never before seen archival footage, and interviews in South Africa and the United States, filmmakers Larry Shore and Tami Gold tell the little-known story of Senator Robert Kennedy's influential June 1966 visit to South Africa during the worst years of Apartheid. "RFK In The Land Of Apartheid: A Ripple Of Hope" is a unique portrait of Senator Kennedy in action at an important moment in American and South African history

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The "Ripple of Hope" Quote

Above: The "Ripple of Hope" quote is one of the most cited in American politics and civil society. It is only one paragraph from the "Day of Affirmation" speech that Senator Robert Kennedy delivered on June 6th, 1966 at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. It is generally considered to be the greatest speech of his career. He was invited to deliver it by NUSAS, The National Union of South African Students, an anti-apartheid student organization.