Old Memo From Roberts the Young Lawyer Shows a Caustic Side

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When he was a young lawyer in the Justice Department in 1982, John G. Roberts Jr. wrote a memorandum that contained an unusually caustic assessment of a prominent black lobbying group called TransAfrica, according to documents released Saturday by NARA.

The memorandum was written in response to a letter to the Justice Department in which TransAfrica's president at the time, Randall Robinson, said he would be providing a free subscription of the organization's policy journal.

TransAfrica was set up to lobby the government on behalf of American blacks on issues relating to Africa and the Caribbean. It had organized a series of successful demonstrations outside the South African Embassy before that country abandoned apartheid.

Mr. Roberts's superior, Kenneth W. Starr, asked him in a memorandum to draft a thank-you note to TransAfrica. Instead, Mr. Roberts wrote on Feb. 16, 1982, that no thank-you note should be sent. "Sometimes silence is golden," he wrote. "TransAfrica is the American lobby group supporting various Marxist takeover attempts in Africa, particularly Namibia."

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