Robert L. Bernstein is an American publisher and human rights
1 Career in publishing
2 Involvement in human rights movement
3 International recognition
4 Military Service
Career in publishing
Bernstein started as an office boy at Simon & Schuster in 1946,
Random House in 1956 and succeeded
Bennett Cerf as President
and CEO in 1966. He served as the President of
Random House for 25
years. He published many great American authors, including William
Faulkner, James Michener, Dr. Seuss,
Toni Morrison and William Styron.
After being invited to the
Soviet Union as part of a delegation from
the Association of American Publishers, he became interested in
writers whose work could not be published in their own countries.
Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner, he ensured that
authors like Václav Havel, Jacobo Timerman,
Xu Wenli and Wei
Jingsheng were all published around the world.
Involvement in human rights movement
After his experience in Moscow in 1973, Bernstein returned to the U.S.
and established the Fund for Free Expression, the parent organization
Helsinki Watch which was established to monitor the former Soviet
Union's compliance with the Helsinki Accords.
In 1988, the series of "Watch Committees" created throughout the
1980s—Americas Watch, Asia Watch, Middle East Watch—merged to
become Human Rights Watch, one of the largest human rights
organizations in the world. Bernstein served as the Chair of Human
Rights Watch from 1978 to 1998, when he became Founding Chair
Emeritus, a title he still holds today. Bernstein is also a board
member and Chair Emeritus of Human Rights in China.
In 2010, Bernstein founded Advancing Human Rights (NGO), which helps
dissidents in closed societies use digital tools to reach audiences
outside their repressive countries.
Bernstein has won numerous awards and honorary degrees, including the
Florina Lasker Award from the New York Civil Liberties Union; the
Human Rights Award from the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights; the
Spirit of Liberty Award from People for the American Way; the Barnard
Medal of Distinction from Barnard College; the Curtis Benjamin Award
for Distinguished Publishing from the Association of American
Publishers; and, in 1998, the United States’ first Eleanor Roosevelt
Award for Human Rights, which was presented by President Bill Clinton.
In 2014, Bernstein was honored with a Social Justice Award from The
New Press, the non-profit, public interest publishing house set-up by
Random House colleague André Schiffrin.
Yale in 1998, Bernstein was honored by friends and colleagues with
the establishment of the
Robert L. Bernstein Fellowships in
International Human Rights at
Yale Law School. The fellowships are
awarded annually to two or three Law School graduates devoted to
advancing human rights protection around the world. Bernstein was also
honored by New York University School of Law, which established the
Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights in 2006.
In 2015, NYU School of Law created the
Robert L. Bernstein Institute
for Human Rights, a research center that will promote scholarship,
education, and advocacy on human rights issues in the United States
He is the recipient of honorary doctorates from Swarthmore College,
The New School, Bard College, Hofstra University, Bates College,
Tougaloo College, and
Bernstein served in the
U.S. Army Air Force
U.S. Army Air Force from 1943 to 1946, two of
the years overseas in India, where he was a staff sergeant in the U.S.
Army Air Corps.
He holds a B.S. degree from Harvard, Class of 1944.
Robert L. Bernstein is the author of Speaking Freely: My Life in
Publishing and Human Rights, published by
The New Press in May
Yale Law School, Bernstein Fellowship