November 22, 1963: a day that was supposed to be a historical visit to town by a sitting president ended with a tragedy that would come to change Dallas, and our country, forever. The JFK assassination, even 50 years later, continues to spark heated discussions about the Kennedy legacy and what really happened in Dealey Plaza. Some say there are more than 2,000 books covering the president’s death.
To commemorate the upcoming anniversary, here are some books we recommend diving into:
“The Death of A President” by William Manchester
The controversy surrounding Manchester’s account of the few days leading up to and following the president’s assassination is sort of an enigma, since the writing of the book was first commissioned by Jackie Kennedy herself. In order to pursue the book, Manchester had access to Kennedy’s widow for two five-hour interviews (the tapes of which will not be released from the Kennedy Library until 2067). But, after he wrote the 700-page tome and submitted the manuscript to the Kennedy family for review, Kennedy administration members and insiders who got their hands on the manuscript claimed it way too personal and potentially detrimental to Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert Kennedy. After cutting 1,600 words for what would become the finished product and suffering nervous exhaustion as a result of the grueling research involved in the project, “The Death of A President” was published in 1967 before eventually going out of print. Last month, Little, Brown and Company released a re-print of the book for the 50th anniversary. It’s one that every American should read.
“Death by Holga: 11.22.63” by M.C. Roman
This one isn’t as much a book as it is a scrapbook. A “collection of photographs of the people, places and things associated with the assassination of President Kennedy,” the project by Roman, a seasoned photographer, sent him all over the country taking photos of people and objects with some connection to Kennedy. Roman also happens to be the owner of Dallas Art News, so he is a local, and all of his photos were taken with a “Holga,” a plastic toy camera. You can read more about the photo book here.
“The Confusion and the Quiet: East Dallas Ninth Graders Remember 50 Years Later” by Kathy Kilmer Moak
In 1963, Moak was a 14-year-old student at Lakewood’s J.L. Long Middle School when her parents allowed her to travel with several classmates downtown to watch the motorcade. She had left to head back to school shortly before her principal announced, during her algebra class, that the president had passed away. Since 2001, she has been compiling memorabilia including newspaper clips, photos and firsthand accounts from her Class of 1967 classmates for the book she self-published, “The Confusion and the Quiet: East Dallas Ninth Graders Remember 50 Years Later.” The book even inspired a pilot stage play called “Shared Stories,” produced by the Sixth Floor Museum and the Dallas Children’s Theater, according to the Dallas Morning News. There is at least one copy of Moak’s book at the Lakewood Library.
John F. Kennedy Sites in Dallas-Fort Worth by Mark Doty
The City of Dallas’ historic preservation officer Mark Doty and city archivist John Slate have put together remarkable images of some of the historical sites Kennedy stopped by on his November 1963 visit to Dallas-Fort Worth. Annotated photos of places like the Hotel Texas, now known as the Fort Worth Hilton, the Texas School Book Depository and the Texas Theater fill the book, which is especially meaningful for Dallas natives. Click here for more information about the book.
“Reclaiming History” by Vincent Bugliosi
Bugliosi prosecuted Charles Manson, and his 1,500+ page book has been called by many the most comprehensive and skilled, researched work about the JFK assassination, as well as the conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s death. The book, published in 2007, took Bugliosi 20 years to research and pen and seeks to eliminate skepticism of the Warren Commission, put the dozens of JFK conspiracy theories to rest once and for all, and prove that Lee Harvey Oswald shot the president without help.