The Amistad Research Center mourns the recent passing of R. Sargent Shriver, pioneer for social change, founding director of the Peace Corps, and quiet champion of civil rights. Shriver and his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics among many other accomplishments in a life devoted to social change, are the only husband-wife team to have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Executive Order 10924, issued by President Kennedy on March 1, 1961, established the Peace Corps, with Sargent Shriver serving as its founding director for five years. As its first director, Shriver laid the foundation for the Peace Corps, often noted as the most lasting contribution of the presidency of John F. Kennedy, Shriver’s brother-in-law. The Peace Corps was modeled after Operation Crossroads Africa (OCA), a volunteer organization which has sent hundreds of North American volunteers annually to Africa since its founding in the late 1950s. OCA founder, James Herman Robinson, served as an intimate advisor to Shriver and other key Peace Corps personnel in its earliest years, and Robinson was acknowledged by President Kennedy himself as the “progenitor of the Peace Corps.”
Later this year, the Amistad Research Center will host an exhibition and related programming to mark the relationship between Operation Crossroads Africa and the Peace Corps. Please stay tuned for further details.
The Amistad Research Center holds over fifty letters between James Herman Robinson and Sargent Shriver, delineating Operation Crossroads Africa’s influence over the design and ethos of the Peace Corps. These, as with the above letter, are found in the James Herman Robinson papers.
Posted by Andrew Salinas
(Image from the James Herman Robinson Papers. May not be reproduced without permission.)