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Robert F. Kennedy in the Mississippi Delta

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy arrives at the Jackson, Miss., airport, for an antipoverty hearing, April 10, 1967. (Photo: Jack Thornell/AP)

'A terrible reflection on our society': Robert Kennedy sees poverty up close

In April 1967, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy took a fateful trip to the Mississippi Delta to investigate hunger and poverty among unemployed farm workers and their families. What he found was shocking — young children living in decrepit conditions who were on the verge of starvation.

Kennedy, who had been working on poverty issues since he was elected to the Senate in 1964, told aides he had never seen such horrific conditions even in developing nations, much less in the United States. The senator said he believed the nation had been woefully ignorant of hunger and demanded the country no longer turn a blind eye to the nation’s neediest. “I think it’s a terrible reflection on our society,” Kennedy said. “We are not doing what we should be doing in the country to deal with this problem.”

The trip would prove transformative to Kennedy, who devoted more of his Senate agenda to helping the Mississippi Delta and other communities in need. He would make the eradication of poverty a central plank of his 1968 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination — the one and only time a major candidate would focus on poverty in a campaign for the White House. But Kennedy would not live to fulfill his promise to help the residents of Mississippi. On June 5, 1968, he was shot and killed by an assassin in Los Angeles. (Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

See RELATED STORY by Holly Bailey/Yahoo News

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