The Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is deeply saddened by the death of Randall Robinson, a renowned and trailblazing civil rights advocate who was also a law professor and bestselling author. Robinson died at 81-years old on March 24, in St. Kitts, the Caribbean Island where he lived for the last 20 years of his life. 

LDF President and Director-Counsel Janai S. Nelson issued the following statement:

“We deeply mourn the death of the civil and human rights giant that was Mr. Randall Robinson, and extend our deepest condolences to his wife, children, and other loved ones. After growing up under Jim Crow in Richmond, Virginia, Robinson leveraged the experiences of injustice and segregation he underwent to fuel an inspiring fight for change around the world— most notably in his work to end apartheid in South Africa and his steadfast and selfless advocacy on behalf of Haitian refugees and immigrants.

“He founded TransAfrica, the largest human rights organization focused on improving diversity and equity in U.S. foreign policy related to Africa. The organization, and Mr. Robinson in particular, played a crucial role in pushing the U.S. government to address apartheid in South Africa. Under his leadership, TransAfrica fought and helped win the release of several South African activists, including Nelson Mandela. In 2012, the Government of South Africa recognized these efforts by bestowing upon Mr. Robinson the highest honor that can be given to a non-citizen of South Africa.

“Well-known for his unwavering commitment to achieving racial justice, in 1994, Mr. Robinson memorably launched a harrowing 27-day hunger strike to lobby then-President Bill Clinton to process Haitian refugees who had flown the country following the ouster of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. That protest, which put Mr. Robinson’s health at great risk, marked the first time an activist took a stance strong enough to sound the alarm on Haiti, forcing the public, Congress, and the President to take note of their plight.”

“That hunger strike was indicative of Mr. Robinson’s unparalleled commitment to the lives, dignity and defense of Black people across the globe, a commitment he also exhibited in the country of his birth — where, among other efforts, he drove the case for reparations for Black Americans. His famous book, The Debt, is a seminal text on reparations for Black people in the United States and helped to reignite scholarly discourse on this critical subject. He will be missed, and his example will echo across generations of the sacrifices from great men and women like him, who helped this nation live up to its best ideals.”


Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.