On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy greets a crowd in the parking lot of the Texas Hotel, in Fort Worth just hours before his assassination.
A half century has passed since November 22, 1963, that dark day in Dallas, Texas, when the “unspeakable” happened: President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as his presidential motorcade cruised through downtown. The impact of Kennedy’s assassination on the lives of Americans and the legacy of the man who remains one of the country’s most beloved presidents are being studied and remembered more than ever on this 50th anniversary. Numerous TV specials and documentaries are being aired that examine Kennedy’s life and presidency and the events surrounding his death. Kennedy’s accomplishments as president include countering the Soviet threat, averting nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis; inspiring young Americans to participate in public service, such as by serving in the Peace Corps, which he started; negotiating a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; urging the nation to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade; and moving the country toward guaranteeing civil rights for African Americans.
The assassination has remained controversial, to say the least. Polls consistently show that far more Americans doubt than believe the conclusion of the Warren Commission that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman responsible. The commission’s judgment was later tempered by the findings of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), which in 1979 reported that Kennedy was likely assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. Key support for the HSCA’s conclusion, however, came from a forensic audio recording that has since been discredited.
A History (channel) documentary on the JFK assassination catalogs 311 distinct theories that together blame more than 40 groups and 200 individuals. The alleged plotters range from CIA or Pentagon operatives to the Mafia to anti- or pro-Castro Cubans to the Russians to Lyndon Johnson. Some scholarly works have attempted to put the conspiracies to rest, such as Gerald Posner’s Case Closed and Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History. Although more than three-fourths of Americans, according to one poll, doubt the full truth will ever be known, the year 2017 may bring some closure. In that year the JFK Records Act, a law passed in 1992 in the wake of the popular conspiracy movie JFK, compels the government to release to the public all remaining documents concerning the assassination of Kennedy.
Image credit: © Cecil Stoughton/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum
- JFK Assassination Timeline
This interactive timeline permits exploration of much more than the events of November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas; it begins with the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1917 to the yet-future release of all remaining assassination-related documents in the possession of the U.S. government in 2017.
(Source: The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza; accessed November 19, 2013)
- What Does the Zapruder Film Really Tell Us?
This insightful article recounts the history of the JFK assassination and of the official explanations and the alternative “conspiracy theories” that have surrounded it for fifty years, with a focus on the centrality of Abraham Zapruder’s 8mm film.
(Source: Smithsonian magazine, October 2013)
- The American Experience: JFK
Watch the acclaimed two-part PBS documentary JFK online.
(Source: PBS; accessed November 20, 2013)
- JFK Facts
This website bills itself as “the premier destination on the Web for high-quality information and reasoned debate about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.”
(Source: JFKFacts.org; accessed November 19, 2013)
- John F. Kennedy
Check out this biographical recap of the 35th U.S. president; links to videos, speeches, photo galleries, and related articles.
(Source: History.com; accessed November 19, 2013)
- JFK 50 Years
This website of the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum presents an overview of John F. Kennedy’s legacy—a walk on the hagiographic side.
(Source: jfk50.org; accessed November 19, 2013)