Eric Holder talks about the nation’s civil rights struggles in a way no previous U.S. attorney general could — by telling his own family story.
As he increasingly pushes his Justice Department to protect voting rights and end unfair prison sentences and police brutality, Holder has drawn on personal history to make the case that the nation has much work to do to achieve justice for all. It’s a legacy he’ll likely draw on when he travels Wednesday to Ferguson, Missouri, to supervise the federal investigation of the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer.
Holder tells how his father, an immigrant from Barbados proudly wearing his World War II uniform, was ejected from a whites-only train car. How his future sister-in-law, escorted by U.S. marshals, integrated the University of Alabama in spite of a governor who stood in the schoolhouse door to block her. How as a college student, he was twice pulled over, his car searched, even though he wasn’t speeding.
And Holder recalls that the slaying of black teen Trayvon Martin in 2012 prompted him to sit down with his own 15-year-old son for a talk about the way a young black male must act and speak if confronted by police — the same talk his father had given him decades earlier.
"I had to do this to protect my boy," the nation’s first black attorney general said at an NAACP convention last year.