The King Speech

Robinson headlines MLK commemoration


Portrait of Randall Robinson

Robinson: Human rights activist.

Courtesy Randall Robinson

Writer and social-justice advocate Randall Robinson, who led a nationwide campaign to end apartheid in South Africa and has pushed for human rights in African and Caribbean nations, was the keynote speaker at this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day program.

Robinson’s speech focused on the extent to which contributions by Africans or those of African descent are appreciated by the wider world. “What if you think you know your story when you really do not know your story? When you believe what you’ve been told, when most of what you’ve been told has been mistold to you, and most of your story has not even been told at all?” he said. “We will not be able to build a brotherhood until we can come to know and appreciate the full stories and histories of the world’s varied peoples.”

Robinson, who is a professor of law at the Pennsylvania State University, founded the policy organization TransAfrica, which promotes human rights in Africa and the Caribbean. In 1994, he led a campaign to end military rule in Haiti that resulted in the establishment of the country’s first democratically elected government. Robinson also has written several books, including Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to Kidnapping of a President, about his efforts in that country.

Other events during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration included an advance screening of the PBS documentary Freedom Riders, about the activists who attempted to integrate interstate bus lines in the early 1960s, and a service project involving collaboration between members of the Duke community and students, faculty, and staff members from North Carolina Central University and Southern High School. Altogether, the participants packaged 50,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger-relief organization.

Watch Robinson's full speech at the 2011 Service of Celebration.

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