RCC Honors History Project

The Death of President Kennedy

Posted by nrohr on March 30, 2009

Reading Eubanks description of white school children in Mississippi cheering the death of President Kennedy (“They got him! Yay! They finally got him!”), I felt sick to my stomach and found the feeling hard to shake. Between the obvious cruelty of cheering someone’s death, especially coming from children, the juxtaposition of Eubanks’ friends and family mourning the President, my own appreciation for President Kennedy, and then the sickening, insular backwardness of Mississippi Eubanks had just been through, including the tragic death of Medgar Evers, it was a powerful thought.

So I have several things I want to get at. First, without launching into too much conspiracy theory, to what extent do you agree with the statement of Mrs. Parker, “They killed him because he wanted Negroes to be free”? Can John F. Kennedy be considered one of the martyrs for civil rights?

Secondly, Eubanks describes such virulent hatred of the President, to think that young children would gleefully cheer the assassination of the leader of their country, of a young man with young children seems so incredibly twisted. Is that intense hatred of the President ever acceptable to the degree that Eubanks describes it? “This is a free country,” we so often say, but to me one of the foundations of a free country would ostensibly be that if you didn’t like the president, you wouldn’t have to kill him because you had freedom of speech and freedom of the press and representation and the right to vote and on and on and on. And you knew that in a few years he wouldn’t be president, and that no one would ever make you vote for him if you hated him so much. And in the case, we’re talking about John F. Kennedy, not some violent dictator or tyrant. Now I certainly said my share of awful things about George W. Bush and I believe absolutely that I was entitled to say them. But never did I wish death or violence upon him, and if something like that had happened, I would have been sad for our country. I even felt bad when he got a shoe thrown at him. Because that’s just not the way you do things. However, I don’t think I would have thought it was wrong if someone had killed Hitler, and I’m curious how the story would have been written if Americans had someone killed King George. So I guess in my mind there is a line where the assassination of a leader or head of state is acceptable, I just don’t think John F. Kennedy was anywhere near it. What’s interesting about that is that it means some white people in Mississippi did think President Kennedy had crossed that line, that he was that horrible of a leader and that he was to be feared. And I think that says more about their hatred of black people than it does their hatred of him.

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One Response to “The Death of President Kennedy”

  1. chad612 said

    It seems like the reason for JFK’s assassination is not definitely known. Certainly people who worked for the Civil Rights movement considered him more of an ally than most politicians, and paranoid segregationists certainly did not like him. My mom remembers living through the assassinations of the sixties, and thinking that when Ronald Reagan was shot, that maybe it wasn’t so bad in comparison. She wouldn’t have shot him herself, but she really didn’t care for him. Of course, he lived and went on to get reelected. Certainly there is sometimes logic during war in taking out the commander in chief, rather than countries just fighting it out until every infantry man is dead.

    Here are the lyrics to a song from the sixties that was popularized by Dion and Marvin Gaye. The title is dedicated to three Civil Rights leaders who were assassinated in their prime, Abraham (Lincoln), John (Kennedy) and Martin (Luther King, Jr.). The last verse is for Bobby Kennedy, I don’t know if that was written later.

    Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?
    Can you tell me where he’s gone?
    He freed a lot of people,
    But it seems the good they die young.
    You know, I just looked around and he’s gone.

    Anybody here seen my old friend John?
    Can you tell me where he’s gone?
    He freed a lot of people,
    But it seems the good they die young.
    I just looked around and he’s gone.

    Anybody here seen my old friend Martin?
    Can you tell me where he’s gone?
    He freed a lot of people,
    But it seems the good they die young.
    I just looked ’round and he’s gone.

    Didn’t you love the things that they stood for?
    Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?
    And we’ll be free
    Some day soon, and it’s a-gonna be one day …

    Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby?
    Can you tell me where he’s gone?
    I thought I saw him walk up over the hill,
    With Abraham, Martin and John.

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