On May 24, 1963, in the aftermath of the Birmingham protests, Lorraine Hansberry was among a group of artists and black activists invited to the home of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to open dialogue about the Civil Rights Movement, and the anger of black people at the administration’s response to white supremacist violence. Among the attendees were James Baldwin (who had assembled the group at Kennedy’s request), his brother David Baldwin, musicians Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte, and Freedom Rider Jerome Smith. At a crucial moment in the meeting, Smith, who had been on the frontlines of the movement and repeatedly beaten, broke down while describing his experiences. Hansberry detected Kennedy physically turning away from Smith and, with a directness that shocked him, implored Kennedy to listen to him. The meeting quickly devolved, and Hansberry is described as telling Kennedy that, as he was the best of what white...

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