OTD in History… August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act into law

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OTD in History… August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act into law

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, the law would prevent the federal government, the states or local areas from imposing any restrictions, which would prevent anybody from voting. The Voting Rights Act combined with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, were meant to guarantee equal and voting rights to African-Americans, who were long relegated to segregation and denied the right to vote guaranteed to them in the fifteenth amendment ratified in 1870. The Fifteenth Amendment promised the guarantee to vote “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” but the South’ Jim Crow laws found ways to circumvent the amendment for nearly a hundred years. Johnson signed the bill surrounded by Civil Rights leaders after an arduous journey imperiled by Southern Democrats, whose constituents long opposed equality for African Americans with racial prejudices alive from the post-Civil War period.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 aimed to reduce inequality for African Americans it did not address the problems with voting. In the South especially, restrictions were meant to prevent African Americans from being registered to vote including difficult literacy tests, poll taxes and grandfather clauses and other tricks and bureaucratic excuses, just to deny them the vote. Johnson and the Democrats’ landslide victory in the 1964 election gave him the mandate to create legislation dealing with the voting issue. Still, he was weary the public would not be supportive so soon after the Civil Rights Act and concerned Southern Democrats would block it and his Great Society social program.

On Sunday, March 7, Bloody Sunday would turn the tide. There Martin Luther King, Jr. and others were peacefully marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, ended up being brutally beaten by the police and state troopers, which led to one death. Despite it, all King believed and said at the march, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” The images on television were enough for Johnson to sway the public and Congress on legislation. The moment was now.

On March 15, President Johnson delivered one his best speeches the Voting Rights Address to Congress, where he spoke of the need for the legislation. Johnson used the moment to his favor, expressing “At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.” Johnson ordered his Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to draft “the goddamndest, toughest voting rights act that you can.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) and Minority Leader Everett McKinley Dirksen (R-Ill.) introduced the bill, 64 senators co-sponsored it, 44 Democrats and 20 Republican co-sponsors. In the Senate floor debate on April 22, Dirksen defended the bill saying “legislation is needed if the unequivocal mandate of the Fifteenth Amendment … is to be enforced and made effective and if the Declaration of Independence is to be made truly meaningful.” While Senator and segregationalist Strom Thurmond (R-SC) said, it would lead to “despotism and tyranny.”

The Voting Rights Act, known as the “Dirksenbach” bill for its primary authors first passed the Senate on May 26, with a vote of 77–19 (Democrats 47–16, Republicans 30–2), all Southern Democrats opposed the bill. The bill passed in the House of Representative on July 9 with a vote of 333–85, Democrats 221–61, and Republicans 112–24, again with Southern Democrats opposing. When the bill went to conference, the biggest difference was the House bill not outlawing poll taxes; a compromise in the bill outlawed them. The House approved the revised bill, on August 3 with a vote of 328–74 (Democrats 217–54, Republicans 111–20). The next day on August 4 the Senate approved the bill 79–18 vote (Democrats 49–17, Republicans 30–1).

On August 6, Johnson signed the bill into law at Statuary Hall in the Capitol building. In attendance were dignitaries including those that helped make landmarks in the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa Parks, who refused to sit at the back of the bus starting the Montgomery bus boycott was there. Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall, whom Johnson had just appointed, and had successfully argued in 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was there. Charles Evers, brother of Medgar Evers killed in 1963 the NAACP’s field secretary, a position Charles later assumed attended. John Doar, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, who “helped shaped the act” attended. John Lewis, who was the face of the violence of the Selma March, he fought for voting rights in the state even before Martin Luther King, Jr., and he was badly injured on Bloody Sunday. King also attended, for the leader of the Civil Rights Movement, this was the second legislative victory. King said at the Lincoln Memorial in May 1957. “So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably have the right to vote I do not possess myself.”

Johnson chose the day because it was symbolic. As historian Gary May in his book Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy recounted, “On that day in 1861, President Lincoln had signed the Confiscation Act, freeing all slaves who were being used to aid the Confederacy; that act was a precursor to the Emancipation Proclamation, which liberated the rebel states’ remaining slaves.” (May 19) President Johnson ensured the visual was also there as he delivered a televised speech, with the backdrop of two busts of Lincoln, and was John Trumbull’s painting of George Washington, the Surrender of Cornwallis. (May 19)

In his speech, Johnson declared, “Today, we strike away the last major shackle of those fierce and ancient bonds. . . . The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” The president, however, signed the bill in the President’s room, he gave the first pen to Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the second to Senator Everett M. Dirksen, and the third to Senator Robert Kennedy. Johnson also gave one to Rev. King, and told him “his work was now done, that the time for protest was over.” (May, 20) Afterward, Johnson hosted the Civil rights Leaders at the White House.

Historian Gary May indicates, “The Voting Rights Act transformed American democracy and in many ways was the last act of emancipation, a process Abraham Lincoln began in 1863.” President Johnson believed it was but the Voting Rights Act was a work in progress, opening the doors to voting, however, African Americans might still have to fight but now with the means in the courts. Through the years, the act would see provisions added evolving for the better. The Voting Rights Act’s greatest victory was Election Day 2008, where 65 percent of African American voters and an overwhelmingly 96 percent of them voted in the first African American President history, Barack Obama.

SOURCES

May, Gary. Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy. New York, N.Y: Basic Books, 2013.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Remarks in the Capitol Rotunda at the Signing of the Voting Rights Act.

August 6, 1965

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of Congress, members of the Cabinet, distinguished guests, my fellow Americans:

Today is a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that has ever been won on any battlefield. Yet to seize the meaning of this day, we must recall darker times.

Three and a half centuries ago the first Negroes arrived at Jamestown. They did not arrive in brave ships in search of a home for freedom. They did not mingle fear and joy, in expectation that in this New World anything would be possible to a man strong enough to reach for it.

They came in darkness and they came in chains.

And today we strike away the last major shackle of those fierce and ancient bonds. Today the Negro story and the American story fuse and blend.

And let us remember that it was not always so. The stories of our Nation and of the American Negro are like two great rivers. Welling up from that tiny Jamestown spring they flow through the centuries along divided channels.

When pioneers subdued a continent to the need of man, they did not tame it for the Negro. When the Liberty Bell rang out in Philadelphia, it did not toll for the Negro. When Andrew Jackson threw open the doors of democracy, they did not open for the Negro.

It was only at Appomattox, a century ago, that an American victory was also a Negro victory. And the two rivers–one shining with promise, the other dark-stained with oppression–began to move toward one another.

THE PROMISE KEPT

Yet, for almost a century the promise of that day was not fulfilled. Today is a towering and certain mark that, in this generation, that promise will be kept. In our time the two currents will finally mingle and rush as one great stream across the uncertain and the marvelous years of the America that is yet to come.

This act flows from a clear and simple wrong. Its only purpose is to right that wrong. Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color. This law will ensure them the right to vote. The wrong is one which no American, in his heart, can justify. The right is one which no American, true to our principles, can deny.

In 1957, as the leader of the majority in the United States Senate, speaking in support of legislation to guarantee the right of all men to vote, I said, “This right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless. It gives people, people as individuals, control over their own destinies.”

Last year I said, “Until every qualified person regardless of . . . the color of his skin has the right, unquestioned and unrestrained, to go in and cast his ballot in every precinct in this great land of ours, I am not going to be satisfied.”

Immediately after the election I directed the Attorney General to explore, as rapidly as possible, the ways to ensure the right to vote.

And then last March, with the outrage of Selma still fresh, I came down to this Capitol one evening and asked the Congress and the people for swift and for sweeping action to guarantee to every man and woman the right to vote. In less than 48 hours I sent the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to the Congress. In little more than 4 months the Congress, with overwhelming majorities, enacted one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of American freedom.

THE WAITING IS GONE

The Members of the Congress, and the many private citizens, who worked to shape and pass this bill will share a place of honor in our history for this one act alone.

There were those who said this is an old injustice, and there is no need to hurry. But 95 years have passed since the 15th amendment gave all Negroes the right to vote.

And the time for waiting is gone.

There were those who said smaller and more gradual measures should be tried. But they had been tried. For years and years they had been tried, and tried, and tried, and they had failed, and failed, and failed.

And the time for failure is gone.

There were those who said that this is a many-sided and very complex problem. But however viewed, the denial of the right to vote is still a deadly wrong.

And the time for injustice has gone.

This law covers many pages. But the heart of the act is plain. Wherever, by clear and objective standards, States and counties are using regulations, or laws, or tests to deny the right to vote, then they will be struck down. If it is clear that State officials still intend to discriminate, then Federal examiners will be sent in to register all eligible voters. When the prospect of discrimination is gone, the examiners will be immediately withdrawn.

And, under this act, if any county anywhere in this Nation does not want Federal intervention it need only open its polling places to all of its people.

THE GOVERNMENT ACTS

This good Congress, the 89th Congress, acted swiftly in passing this act. I intend to act with equal dispatch in enforcing this act.

And tomorrow at 1 p.m., the Attorney General has been directed to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the poll tax in the State of Mississippi. This will begin the legal process which, I confidently believe, will very soon prohibit any State from requiring the payment of money in order to exercise the right to vote.

And also by tomorrow the Justice Department, through publication in the Federal Register, will have officially certified the States where discrimination exists.

I have, in addition, requested the Department of Justice to work all through this weekend so that on Monday morning next, they can designate many counties where past experience clearly shows that Federal action is necessary and required. And by Tuesday morning, trained Federal examiners will be at work registering eligible men and women in 10 to 15 counties.

And on that same day, next Tuesday, additional poll tax suits will be filed in the States of Texas, Alabama, and Virginia.

And I pledge you that we will not delay, or we will not hesitate, or we will not turn aside until Americans of every race and color and origin in this country have the same right as all others to share in the process of democracy.

So, through this act, and its enforcement, an important instrument of freedom passes into the hands of millions of our citizens. But that instrument must be used. Presidents and Congresses, laws and lawsuits can open the doors to the polling places and open the doors to the wondrous rewards which await the wise use of the ballot.

THE VOTE BECOMES JUSTICE

But only the individual Negro, and all others who have been denied the right to vote, can really walk through those doors, and can use that right, and can transform the vote into an instrument of justice and fulfillment.

So, let me now say to every Negro in this country: You must register. You must vote. You must learn, so your choice advances your interest and the interest of our beloved Nation. Your future, and your children’s future, depend upon it, and I don’t believe that you are going to let them down.

This act is not only a victory for Negro leadership. This act is a great challenge to that leadership. It is a challenge which cannot be met simply by protests and demonstrations. It means that dedicated leaders must work around the clock to teach people their rights and their responsibilities and to lead them to exercise those rights and to fulfill those responsibilities and those duties to their country.

If you do this, then you will find, as others have found before you, that the vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.

THE LAST OF THE BARRIERS TUMBLE

Today what is perhaps the last of the legal barriers is tumbling. There will be many actions and many difficulties before the rights woven into law are also woven into the fabric of our Nation. But the struggle for equality must now move toward a different battlefield.

It is nothing less than granting every American Negro his freedom to enter the mainstream of American life: not the conformity that blurs enriching differences of culture and tradition, but rather the opportunity that gives each a chance to choose.

For centuries of oppression and hatred have already taken their painful toll. It can be seen throughout our land in men without skills, in children without fathers, in families that are imprisoned in slums and in poverty.

RIGHTS ARE NOT ENOUGH

For it is not enough just to give men rights. They must be able to use those rights in their personal pursuit of happiness. The wounds and the weaknesses, the outward walls and the inward scars which diminish achievement are the work of American society. We must all now help to end them–help to end them through expanding programs already devised and through new ones to search out and forever end the special handicaps of those who are black in a Nation that happens to be mostly white.

So, it is for this purpose–to fulfill the rights that we now secure–that I have already called a White House conference to meet here in the Nation’s Capital this fall.

So, we will move step by step–often painfully but, I think, with clear vision–along the path toward American freedom.

It is difficult to fight for freedom. But I also know how difficult it can be to bend long years of habit and custom to grant it. There is no room for injustice anywhere in the American mansion. But there is always room for understanding toward those who see the old ways crumbling. And to them today I say simply this: It must come. It is right that it should come. And when it has, you will find that a burden has been lifted from your shoulders, too.

It is not just a question of guilt, although there is that. It is that men cannot live with a lie and not be stained by it.

DIGNITY IS NOT JUST A WORD

The central fact of American civilization–one so hard for others to understand–is that freedom and justice and the dignity of man are not just words to us. We believe in them. Under all the growth and the tumult and abundance, we believe. And so, as long as some among us are oppressed–and we are part of that oppression–it must blunt our faith and sap the strength of our high purpose.

Thus, this is a victory for the freedom of the American Negro. But it is also a victory for the freedom of the American Nation. And every family across this great, entire, searching land will live stronger in liberty, will live more splendid in expectation, and will be prouder to be American because of the act that you have passed that I will sign today.

Thank you.


Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. in the Rotunda at the Capitol, prior to signing the bill. In his opening words he referred to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, President of the Senate, and Representative John W. McCormack of Massachusetts, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

As enacted, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is Public Law 89-110 (79 Stat. 437).

Reports to the President on the implementation of the act, prepared by the Attorney General and the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, were made public by the White House on August 5, August 14, and August 21. They are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 1, pp. 51, 92, 125).

The determinations of the Attorney General are printed in the Federal Register of August 7 and August 10, 1965 (30 F.R. 9897, 9970).

Lyndon B. Johnson: “Remarks in the Capitol Rotunda at the Signing of the Voting Rights Act.,” August 6, 1965. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=27140.

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OTD in history… July 16, 1964, Conservative Barry Goldwater accepts Republican presidential nomination

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OTD in history… July 16, 1964, Conservative Barry Goldwater accepts Republican presidential nomination

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Getty Images

On this day in history July 16, 1964, the Republican Party nominates Conservative Barry Goldwater, a Senator from Arizona for president; Goldwater ushered in the Republican Party’s longtime association with conservatism. The primaries pit Goldwater against moderate Nelson Rockefeller of New York, with Goldwater emerging with enough support for the nomination, however, throughout the campaign the two factions of the party remained fractured. In his acceptance speech, Goldwater claimed, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” The Democrats led by incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson portrayed Goldwater as an extremist, notably depicting that to the public with their Daisy commercial, claiming Goldwater would start a nuclear war.

Johnson would go on to win the election with a landslide and the largest share of the popular vote in modern American history. Despite his loss, Goldwater’s nomination realigned the Republican Party geographically, with the Sunbelt and the South turning Republican red after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The real star of the Republican presidential campaign in 1964 was former actor Ronald Reagan, who delivered his televised Time for Choosing speech in October, launching his political career. Goldwater’s nomination started the Republican Party’s alignment with the modern conservative movement, leading to Reagan’s election in 1980 and has remained a driving force in Republican politics.

READ MORE

Perlstein, Rick. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. New York: Nation Books, 2009.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Goldwater’s 1964 Acceptance Speech

 

Source: WaPo

Provided by the Arizona Historical Foundation

To my good friend and great Republican, Dick Nixon, and your charming wife, Pat; my running mate and that wonderful Republican who has served us well for so long, Bill Miller and his wife, Stephanie; to Thurston Morton who has done such a commendable job in chairmaning this Convention; to Mr. Herbert Hoover, who I hope is watching; and to that great American and his wife, General and Mrs. Eisenhower; to my own wife, my family, and to all of my fellow Republicans here assembled, and Americans across this great Nation.

From this moment, united and determined, we will go forward together, dedicated to the ultimate and undeniable greatness of the whole man. Together we will win.

I accept your nomination with a deep sense of humility. I accept, too, the responsibility that goes with it, and I seek your continued help and your continued guidance. My fellow Republicans, our cause is too great for any man to feel worthy of it. Our task would be too great for any man, did he not have with him the heart and the hands of this great Republican Party, and I promise you tonight that every fiber of my being is consecrated to our cause; that nothing shall be lacking from the struggle that can be brought to it by enthusiasm, by devotion, and plain hard work. In this world no person, no party can guarantee anything, but what we can do and what we shall do is to deserve victory, and victory will be ours.

The good Lord raised this mighty Republic to be a home for the brave and to flourish as the land of the free-not to stagnate in the swampland of collectivism, not to cringe before the bully of communism.

Now, my fellow Americans, the tide has been running against freedom. Our people have followed false prophets. We must, and we shall, return to proven ways– not because they are old, but because they are true. We must, and we shall, set the tide running again in the cause of freedom. And this party, with its every action, every word, every breath, and every heartbeat, has but a single resolve, and that is freedom – freedom made orderly for this nation by our constitutional government; freedom under a government limited by laws of nature and of nature’s God; freedom – balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the slavery of the prison cell; balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the license of the mob and of the jungle.

Now, we Americans understand freedom. We have earned it, we have lived for it, and we have died for it. This Nation and its people are freedom’s model in a searching world. We can be freedom’s missionaries in a doubting world. But, ladies and gentlemen, first we must renew freedom’s mission in our own hearts and in our own homes.

During four futile years, the administration which we shall replace has distorted and lost that faith. It has talked and talked and talked and talked the words of freedom. Now, failures cement the wall of shame in Berlin. Failures blot the sands of shame at the Bay of Pigs. Failures mark the slow death of freedom in Laos. Failures infest the jungles of Vietnam. And failures haunt the houses of our once great alliances and undermine the greatest bulwark ever erected by free nations – the NATO community. Failures proclaim lost leadership, obscure purpose, weakening wills, and the risk of inciting our sworn enemies to new aggressions and to new excesses. Because of this administration we are tonight a world divided – we are a Nation becalmed. We have lost the brisk pace of diversity and the genius of individual creativity. We are plodding at a pace set by centralized planning, red tape, rules without responsibility, and regimentation without recourse.

Rather than useful jobs in our country, people have been offered bureaucratic “make work,” rather than moral leadership, they have been given bread and circuses, spectacles, and, yes, they have even been given scandals. Tonight there is violence in our streets, corruption in our highest offices, aimlessness among our youth, anxiety among our elders and there is a virtual despair among the many who look beyond material success for the inner meaning of their lives. Where examples of morality should be set, the opposite is seen. Small men, seeking great wealth or power, have too often and too long turned even the highest levels of public service into mere personal opportunity.

Now, certainly, simple honesty is not too much to demand of men in government. We find it in most. Republicans demand it from everyone. They demand it from everyone no matter how exalted or protected his position might be. The growing menace in our country tonight, to personal safety, to life, to limb and property, in homes, in churches, on the playgrounds, and places of business, particularly in our great cities, is the mounting concern, or should be, of every thoughtful citizen in the United States.

Security from domestic violence, no less than from foreign aggression, is the most elementary and fundamental purpose of any government, and a government that cannot fulfill that purpose is one that cannot long command the loyalty of its citizens. History shows us – demonstrates that nothing – nothing prepares the way for tyranny more than the failure of public officials to keep the streets from bullies and marauders.

Now, we Republicans see all this as more, much more, than the rest: of mere political differences or mere political mistakes. We see this as the result of a fundamentally and absolutely wrong view of man, his nature and his destiny. Those who seek to live your lives for you, to take your liberties in return for relieving you of yours, those who elevate the state and downgrade the citizen must see ultimately a world in which earthly power can be substituted for divine will, and this Nation was founded upon the rejection of that notion and upon the acceptance of God as the author of freedom.

Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed. Their mistaken course stems from false notions of equality, ladies and gentlemen. Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.

Fellow Republicans, it is the cause of Republicanism to resist concentrations of power, private or public, which enforce such conformity and inflict such despotism. It is the cause of Republicanism to ensure that power remains in the hands of the people. And, so help us God, that is exactly what a Republican president will do with the help of a Republican Congress.

It is further the cause of Republicanism to restore a clear understanding of the tyranny of man over man in the world at large. It is our cause to dispel the foggy thinking which avoids hard decisions in the illusion that a world of conflict will somehow mysteriously resolve itself into a world of harmony, if we just don’t rock the boat or irritate the forces of aggression – and this is hogwash.

It is further the cause of Republicanism to remind ourselves, and the world, that only the strong can remain free, that only the strong can keep the peace.

Now, I needn’t remind you, or my fellow Americans regardless of party, that Republicans have shouldered this hard responsibility and marched in this cause before. It was Republican leadership under Dwight Eisenhower that kept the peace, and passed along to this administration the mightiest arsenal for defense the world has ever known. And I needn’t remind you that it was the strength and the unbelievable will of the Eisenhower years that kept the peace by using our strength, by using it in the Formosa Straits and in Lebanon and by showing it courageously at all times.

It was during those Republican years that the thrust of Communist imperialism was blunted. It was during those years of Republican leadership that this world moved closer, not to war, but closer to peace, than at any other time in the three decades just passed.

And I needn’t remind you – but I will – that it’s been during Democratic years that our strength to deter war has stood still, and even gone into a planned decline. It has been during Democratic years that we have weakly stumbled into conflict, timidly refusing to draw our own lines against aggression, deceitfully refusing to tell even our people of our full participation, and tragically, letting our finest men die on battlefields (unmarked by purpose, unmarked by pride or the prospect of victory).

Yesterday it was Korea. Tonight it is Vietnam. Make no bones of this. Don’t try to sweep this under the rug. We are at war in Vietnam. And yet the President, who is Commander-in-Chief of our forces, refuses to say – refuses to say, mind you, whether or not the objective over there is victory. And his Secretary of Defense continues to mislead and misinform the American people, and enough of it has gone by.

And I needn’t remind you, but I will; it has been during Democratic years that a billion persons were cast into Communist captivity and their fate cynically sealed.

Today in our beloved country we have an administration which seems eager to deal with communism in every coin known – from gold to wheat, from consulates to confidence, and even human freedom itself.

The Republican cause demands that we brand communism as a principal disturber of peace in the world today. Indeed, we should brand it as the only significant disturber of the peace, and we must make clear that until its goals of conquest are absolutely renounced and its rejections with all nations tempered, communism and the governments it now controls are enemies of every man on earth who is or wants to be free.

We here in America can keep the peace only if we remain vigilant and only if we remain strong. Only if we keep our eyes open and keep our guard up can we prevent war. And I want to make this abundantly clear – I don’t intend to let peace or freedom be torn from our grasp because of lack of strength or lack of will – and that I promise you Americans.

I believe that we must look beyond the defense of freedom today to its extension tomorrow. I believe that the communism which boasts it will bury us will, instead, give way to the forces of freedom. And I can see in the distant and yet recognizable future the outlines of a world worthy our dedication, our every risk, our every effort, our every sacrifice along the way. Yes, a world that will redeem the suffering of those who will be liberated from tyranny. I can see and I suggest that all thoughtful men must contemplate the flowering of an Atlantic civilization, the whole world of Europe unified and free, trading openly across its borders, communicating openly across the world. This is a goal far, far more meaningful than a moon shot.

It’s a truly inspiring goal for all free men to set for themselves during the latter half of the twentieth century. I can also see – and all free men must thrill to – the events of this Atlantic civilization joined by its great ocean highway to the United States. What a destiny, what a destiny can be ours to stand as a great central pillar linking Europe, the Americans and the venerable and vital peoples and cultures of the Pacific. I can see a day when all the Americas, North and South, will be linked in a mighty system, a system in which the errors and misunderstandings of the past will be submerged one by one in a rising tide of prosperity and interdependence. We know that the misunderstandings of centuries are not to be wiped away in a day or wiped away in an hour. But we pledge – we pledge that human sympathy – what our neighbors to the South call that attitude of “simpatico” – no less than enlightened self’-interest will be our guide.

I can see this Atlantic civilization galvanizing and guiding emergent nations everywhere.

I know this freedom is not the fruit of every soil. I know that our own freedom was achieved through centuries, by unremitting efforts by brave and wise men. I know that the road to freedom is a long and a challenging road. I know also that some men may walk away from it, that some men resist challenge, accepting the false security of governmental paternalism.

And I pledge that the America I envision in the years ahead will extend its hand in health, in teaching and in cultivation, so that all new nations will be at least encouraged to go our way, so that they will not wander down the dark alleys of tyranny or to the dead-end streets of collectivism. My fellow Republicans, we do no man a service by hiding freedom’s light under a bushel of mistaken humility.

I seek an American proud of its past, proud of its ways, proud of its dreams, and determined actively to proclaim them. But our example to the world must, like charity, begin at home.

In our vision of a good and decent future, free and peaceful, there must be room for deliberation of the energy and talent of the individual – otherwise our vision is blind at the outset.

We must assure a society here which, while never abandoning the needy or forsaking the helpless, nurtures incentives and opportunity for the creative and the productive. We must know the whole good is the product of many single contributions.

I cherish a day when our children once again will restore as heroes the sort of men and women who – unafraid and undaunted – pursue the truth, strive to cure disease, subdue and make fruitful our natural environment and produce the inventive engines of production, science, and technology.

This Nation, whose creative people have enhanced this entire span of history, should again thrive upon the greatness of all those things which we, as individual citizens, can and should do. During Republican years, this again will be a nation of men and women, of families proud of their role, jealous of their responsibilities, unlimited in their aspirations – a Nation where all who can will be self-reliant.

We Republicans see in our constitutional form of government the great framework which assures the orderly but dynamic fulfillment of the whole man, and we see the whole man as the great reason for instituting orderly government in the first place.

We see, in private property and in economy based upon and fostering private property, the one way to make government a durable ally of the whole man, rather than his determined enemy. We see in the sanctity of private property the only durable foundation for constitutional government in a free society. And beyond that, we see, in cherished diversity of ways, diversity of thoughts, of motives and accomplishments. We do not seek to lead anyone’s life for him – we seek only to secure his rights and to guarantee him opportunity to strive, with government performing only those needed and constitutionally sanctioned tasks which cannot otherwise be performed.

We Republicans seek a government that attends to its inherent responsibilities of maintaining a stable monetary and fiscal climate, encouraging a free and a competitive economy and enforcing law and order. Thus do we seek inventiveness, diversity, and creativity within a stable order, for we Republicans define government’s role where needed at many, many levels, preferably through the one closest to the people involved.

Our towns and our cities, then our counties, then our states, then our regional contacts – and only then, the national government. That, let me remind you, is the ladder of liberty, built by decentralized power. On it also we must have balance between the branches of government at every level.

Balance, diversity, creativity – these are the elements of Republican equation. Republicans agree, Republicans agree heartily to disagree on many, many of their applications, but we have never disagreed on the basic fundamental issues of why you and I are Republicans.

This is a party, this Republican Party, a Party for free men, not for blind followers, and not for conformists.

Back in 1858 Abraham Lincoln said this of the Republican party – and I quote him, because he probably could have said it during the last week or so: “It was composed of strained, discordant, and even hostile elements” in 1858. Yet all of these elements agreed on one paramount objective: To arrest the progress of slavery, and place it in the course of ultimate extinction.

Today, as then, but more urgently and more broadly than then, the task of preserving and enlarging freedom at home and safeguarding it from the forces of tyranny abroad is great enough to challenge all our resources and to require all our strength. Anyone who joins us in all sincerity, we welcome. Those who do not care for our cause, we don’t expect to enter our ranks in any case. And let our Republicanism, so focused and so dedicated, not be made fuzzy and futile by unthinking and stupid labels.

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

The beauty of the very system we Republicans are pledged to restore and revitalize, the beauty of this Federal system of ours is in its reconciliation of diversity with unity. We must not see malice in honest differences of opinion, and no matter how great, so long as they are not inconsistent with the pledges we have given to each other in and through our Constitution. Our Republican cause is not to level out the world or make its people conform in computer regimented sameness. Our Republican cause is to free our people and light the way for liberty throughout the world.

Ours is a very human cause for very humane goals.

This Party, its good people, and its unquestionable devotion to freedom, will not fulfill the purposes of this campaign which we launch here now until our cause has won the day, inspired the world, and shown the way to a tomorrow worthy of all our yesteryears.

I repeat, I accept your nomination with humbleness, with pride, and you and I are going to fight for the goodness of our land. Thank you.

History Buzz February 28, 2013: Robert Caro Wins National Book Critics Circle 2012 Award for Biography

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Caro wins National Book Critics Circle bio prize

Source: AP, 2-28-13

‘The Passage of Power’

'The Passage of Power'

Random House via Bloomberg

“The Passage of Power,” by Robert A. Caro, who won the National Book Critics Circle’s 2012 award for biography.

Author Robert Caro is again the critics’ choice.

Caro’s fourth Lyndon Baines Johnson book, “The Passage of Power,” won the National Book Critics Circle biography prize on Thursday night. The 77-year-old historian has won virtually every literary honor for his Johnson series, from the Pulitzer Prize to the National Book Award to three prizes from the critics circle, founded in 1974, around the time he started on the LBJ books…..READ MORE

History Buzz February 21, 2013: Robert Caro wins $50,000 American History Book Prize from the New York Historical Society

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Robert Caro wins $50,000 history prize

Source: AP, 2-21-13

  Historian Robert Caro.

Historian Robert Caro

Robert Caro has won yet another literary prize, this one worth $50,000.

The New-York Historical Society announced Thursday that Caro had won its American History Book Prize for the fourth volume of his Lyndon Johnson series, The Passage of Power….READ MORE

History Buzz September 15, 2011: Michael Beschloss: Jacqueline Kennedy Recordings Offer Rare Glimpse of Life With President John F. Kennedy Transcript Excerpts

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

IN FOCUS: JACQUELINE KENNEDY: HISTORIC CONVERSATION WITH JOHN F. KENNEDY & IN HER OWN WORDS

Jacqueline Kennedy

HISTORY INTERVIEWS: Recordings of Jacqueline Kennedy Offer Rare Glimpse of Life With JFK — Transcript & Excerpts

Source: PBS Newshour, 9-15-11

SUMMARY

The new book, “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy,” includes never before heard audio recordings of interviews conducted with the former first lady in 1964. Ray Suarez discusses the rare and intimate glimpse with presidential historian Michael Beschloss, who edited and annotated the book.

RAY SUAREZ: And to a rare and intimate glimpse into history.

The new book “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy,” includes never-before-heard audio recordings of interviews conducted with the former first lady in 1964, shortly after her husband’s assassination.

The tapes were released by daughter Caroline Kennedy in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy administration.

Presidential historian and regular NewsHour guest Michael Beschloss edited and annotated the book, and he joins us now.

And, Michael, it was a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at life with JFK, life in the White House, and the life and times of the Kennedy administration.

What do you know now? What’s the most important thing you know now that you didn’t know before?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, presidential historian: Well, the biggest thing, if we had talked a year ago, before I read this thing, I would have said Jacqueline Kennedy was a major figure obviously in JFK’s life and Kennedy’s Washington, did a lot for historic preservation, restored the White House, substituted the taste, perhaps, of Dwight Eisenhower, who had people like Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians play in the White House, for people like Pablo Casals.

But I wouldn’t have said that she was a major political figure in Kennedy administration. Now I would. One example of this is the number of times in this book where she runs down, say, someone like Dean Rusk, the secretary of state, says, “Jack, you should fire him.” And he says, “Well, maybe you’re right, but I can’t do it until 1964.”

She goes to Pakistan and there’s an ambassador of the United States she meets there, comes back, writes a letter at her husband’s behest that he sends on to the secretary of state. She had a lot more to do particularly with the personnel of this administration than think I would have thought.

RAY SUAREZ: We are taken into the back, private areas of the White House during some of the most tense times in the 1960s, for instance, the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Jacqueline Kennedy tells historian and Kennedy insider Arthur Schlesinger about what those tense days were like for her and the family.

Let’s listen.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Right.

JACQUELINE KENNEDY, former first lady: But I said: “Please, don’t send me away to Camp David, you know, me and the children. Please don’t send me anywhere. If anything happens, we’re all going to say right here with you.”

And, you know — and I said, “Even if there’s not room in the bomb shelter in the White House,” which I had seen, I said, “Please, then I just want to be on the lawn when it happens, you know, but I just want to be with you and I want to die with you. And the children do, too, than live without you.”

RAY SUAREZ: It’s a reminder that this wasn’t kidding around. The world felt like it was right on the precipice. When the first lady says to the president, “I and the children want to die with you,” it was striking.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: And be out on the lawn, not in a bomb shelter.

And the other thing is, it tells something about their marriage. In my experience studying presidents, the president doesn’t have a great marriage with the first lady and there’s a big political crisis, the president usually doesn’t want to spend very much time with his wife, would rather be around cronies or something.

John Kennedy’s first instinct when he knows about the Cuban Missile Crisis — it is in the book — he calls up Jackie, who is in Virginia. There’s something funny in his voice, she says. He says, “Please bring the children right now back to the White House,” even though they were taking naps.

And the next 13 days, they spent very much together, went strolling out on the lawn together. He had a very — she had a very large part in his life, obviously, but particularly at this moment he looked to her for security.

RAY SUAREZ: Two things shone out again and again, how much she admired Kennedy’s personality, his intellect, the way he related to people on the campaign trail and at times how unsure of her own value to him she really was. Take a listen to this.

JACQUELINE KENNEDY: I was always a liability to him until we got to the White House. And he never asked me to change or said anything about it. Everyone thought I was a snob from Newport who had bouffant hair and had French clothes and hated politics.

And then because I was off and having these babies, I wasn’t able to campaign, be around him as much as I could have. And he’d get so upset for me when something like that came out. And, sometimes, I would say, “Oh, Jack, I wish — I’m so sorry for you that I’m just such a dud.”

RAY SUAREZ: Sure, she was a little unsure campaigning at the beginning, but she was anything but a liability, right?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: As it turned out.

But the Kennedy operatives in 1960 thought that she would be, that people would be put off, that she would seem too effete. Some of them wished that she would be more like Pat Nixon. One once said, we will run Mrs. Kennedy through subliminally, worried about her politically.

The biggest surprise to both of them is, she becomes first lady and she’s the most enormous celebrity in the country. Everyone wants to wear their hair like Jackie, the women do, and do their houses and imitate her in other ways. And the poignant thing is that, when they went to Texas at the end of the Kennedy presidency, he had pleaded with her to go with him because she was such a political asset.

RAY SUAREZ: The interesting thing about the times is that right behind her is Bess Truman and Mamie Eisenhower.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: The model political wife of the time.

RAY SUAREZ: Waiting out just a little ways down the road are Lady Bird Johnson in her way, but also Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter. She seems on the edge of those two worlds, a helpmeet, a supporter, but also someone who is educated, quite sophisticated in her own right, and worried very much about how the burdens of the presidency were affecting her husband when she couldn’t help him.

Listen to this.

JACQUELINE KENNEDY: And he cared so much. He didn’t care about his 100 days, but all those poor men who you would send off with all their hopes high and promises that we would back them. And there they were, shot down like dogs or going to die in jail.

And Bobby came over to see me and said, “Please stay very close to Jack. I mean, just be around all afternoon.” If I was going to take children out — in other words, don’t leave anywhere, just to sort of comfort him.

RAY SUAREZ: The Bay of Pigs had been a disaster for the very young Kennedy administration, and she was watching it weigh on her husband.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Yes, just three months in.

And he came in with very grandiose expectations, and, suddenly, three months later, he’s accused of being an incompetent, can’t get this done, the invasion of Cuba. He weeps with her in a bedroom in the weekend house they had in Virginia.

And, also, you look at Kennedy’s medical records. His doctors felt that he had gone into a depression. So she felt very much part of her job throughout this presidency was buoying him up when he needed it, and he often did.

RAY SUAREZ: Also, she was incredibly young, raising young children, and pregnant several times during that both campaign and early White House phase, but, at the same time, a woman energized by the life that she was living emerges from the texts of the Schlesinger interviews.

By 1964, when this interview was done, she seems to be pretty much at peace with her role in White House. Take a listen:

JACQUELINE KENNEDY: I always thought there was one thing merciful about the White House, which made up for the goldfish bowl and the Secret Service and all that, was that it was kind of — you were hermetically sealed or there was something protective against the outside world, I mean, as far as your private life went.

And I decided that was the best thing to do. Everyone should be trying to help Jack in whatever way they could. And that was the way I could do it the best, by making it always a climate of affection and comfort and detente when he came home.

RAY SUAREZ: Interesting that she was able to create privacy, when so many other first ladies more keenly feel that intrusion.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Yes, that’s right.

And she didn’t want to go to the White House. She got very morose when he won, oddly enough, because she thought that life would wreck her family. And she was a woman of hugely strong will. And she basically said: I’m not going to be Mamie Eisenhower, campaigning and going to all these political and other kinds of banquets. My job is to support my husband, to raise my children well.

And she also took on for herself this huge project of restoring the White House, which she rightly felt when she encountered it looked like sort of a bad convention hotel which was full of B. Altman reproductions. She had to raise the money for it, huge project, so, all of that done at the same time. This was a woman who was very young, 31 when she became first lady, but of enormous accomplishment and talent.

RAY SUAREZ: A lot of the coverage over the last week has gone to her sharp and sometimes even a little snarky observations on the…

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: One or two.

RAY SUAREZ: Yes, the great and the good of her age. But that just shows that she was paying attention, doesn’t it?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: She was paying very close attention.

And if you looked at the oral history, if there was one, of a first lady that was more traditional, perhaps a Mamie Eisenhower, I doubt if she would have had independent opinions about a secretary of state or an ambassador, and fulfilled that role for her husband.

RAY SUAREZ: So what do we see in Jackie, a sort of hybrid?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I think a hybrid, and I think you’re right in saying that she was a transitional figure.

She knew that she had to function in a period where people didn’t want to see her attending Cabinet meetings, which she had no interest in doing and didn’t. But, at the same time, she knew that that generation of woman could not any longer be content to be a Mamie Eisenhower or one of the earlier first ladies, who basically poured tea.

RAY SUAREZ: Michael Beschloss, thanks for joining us.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Pleasure, Ray.

History Buzz Michael Beschloss & Caroline Kennedy: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy & ABC’s In Her Own Words

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

BOOK NEWS: JACQUELINE KENNEDY: HISTORIC CONVERSATION WITH JOHN F. KENNEDY & IN HER OWN WORDS

Jacqueline Kennedy

 INTRODUCTION

Caroline Kennedy, Michael Beschloss. Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. Hyperion; Har/Com edition, September 14, 2011

Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words: Online Video ABC

Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words: Jacqueline Kennedy’s style, elegance and courage helped to define an era, but she never spoke publicly about her White House years. Four months after her husband’s death, she recorded a series of interviews for history, specifying the tapes not be released until the appropriate time. Now, nearly 50 years later, Kennedy’s tapes have been released to the public in a new book and audio set…. ABC News

In 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy recorded seven historic interviews about her life with John F. Kennedy. Now, for the first time, they can be heard and read in this deluxe, illustrated book and 8-CD set.
Shortly after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, with a nation deep in mourning and the world looking on in stunned disbelief, Jacqueline Kennedy found the strength to set aside her own personal grief for the sake of posterity and begin the task of documenting and preserving her husband’s legacy. In January of 1964, she and Robert F. Kennedy approved a planned oral-history project that would capture their first-hand accounts of the late President as well as the recollections of those closest to him throughout his extraordinary political career. For the rest of her life, the famously private Jacqueline Kennedy steadfastly refused to discuss her memories of those years, but beginning that March, she fulfilled her obligation to future generations of Americans by sitting down with historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and recording an astonishingly detailed and unvarnished account of her experiences and impressions as the wife and confidante of John F. Kennedy. The tapes of those sessions were then sealed and later deposited in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum upon its completion, in accordance with Mrs. Kennedy’s wishes.
The resulting eight and a half hours of material comprises a unique and compelling record of a tumultuous era, providing fresh insights on the many significant people and events that shaped JFK’s presidency but also shedding new light on the man behind the momentous decisions. Here are JFK’s unscripted opinions on a host of revealing subjects, including his thoughts and feelings about his brothers Robert and Ted, and his take on world leaders past and present, giving us perhaps the most informed, genuine, and immediate portrait of John Fitzgerald Kennedy we shall ever have. Mrs. Kennedy’s urbane perspective, her candor, and her flashes of wit also give us our clearest glimpse into the active mind of a remarkable First Lady.
In conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s Inauguration, Caroline Kennedy and the Kennedy family are now releasing these beautifully restored recordings on CDs with accompanying transcripts. Introduced and annotated by renowned presidential historian Michael Beschloss, these interviews will add an exciting new dimension to our understanding and appreciation of President Kennedy and his time and make the past come alive through the words and voice of an eloquent eyewitness to history.

“My mother willingly recalled the span of her married life and shared her insights into my father’s private and public political personality.” — Caroline Kennedy wrote

JACKIE KENNEDY TRANSCRIPT EXCERPTS

“Suddenly, everything that’d been a liability before — your hair, that you spoke French, that you didn’t just adore to campaign, and you didn’t bake bread with flour up to your arms — you know, everybody thought I was a snob and hated politics. I was so happy for Jack, especially now that it was only three years together that he could be proud of me then. Because it made him so happy — it made me so happy. So those were our happiest years.”

“Renewals of love after brief separations”… “He loved having those children tumbling around him”… He never asked me to change”

Martin Luther King, Jr.: “tricky” and a “phony”; “I said, ‘Oh, but Jack, that’s so terrible. I mean that man is a, you know, such a phony.’… He would never judge anyone in any sort of way. He never said anything against Martin Luther King, Jr.”
“He made fun of Cardinal Cushing and said that he was drunk at it. And things about they almost dropped the coffin. I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible.”

France’s Charles de Gaulle: “egomaniac” and a “spiteful man” “He was so full of spite … I loathe the French, they’re really not very nice, they’re all for themselves.”

Indira Gandhi, the future prime minister of India: “prune — bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman.”

Sukarno, the former Indonesian president: a lecher, he left “a bad taste in your mouth.”

André Malraux, the French novelist: “The most fascinating man I’ve ever talked to.”

Colombian president, Alberto Lleras Camargo: “Nordic in his sadness.”

Mr. Kennedy on Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Charlatan is an unfair word,” but “he did an awful lot for effect.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Really, he kept us [as a nation] standing still.”

First Lady Mamie Eisenhower: “There was venom or something there.”

Pat Nixon: Kennedy said she worried that the public wanted her to get a “frizzy perm and be like Pat Nixon.”

Lady Bird Johnson: “trained hunting dog.”

On Lyndon Johnson as President: “Jack said it to me sometimes. He said, ‘Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon were president?’ And Bobby told me that he’d had some discussions with him … do something to name someone else in 1968”

On Lyndon B. Johnson, as a Vice President: “[He had] an enormous ego … [He] just didn’t do anything.”

On Johnson, after he took office as President: “People will think I’m bitter, but I just want it to be put in context the kind of president Jack was and Lyndon is.”

On her husband becoming President in 1961: “Once he was in control … all the best things would happen.”

On the Bay of Pigs invasion: “He started to cry … just with me. Just put his head in his hands and sort of wept. And, it was so sad. He cared so much … all those poor men.”

On the Cuban Missile Crisis in Octpber 1962 to JFK: “From then on, it seemed there was no waking or sleeping…. If anything happens, we’re all going to stay right here with you. “[I told John] please don’t send me away to Camp David … Even if there’s not room in the bomb shelter in the White House, which I’d seen…. I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too — than live without you….
That was the time I was closest to him, I never left the house or saw the children. I stayed by his side.”

Eunice Kennedy Shriver: “She wanted to be a cabinet wife.”

On Joseph Jr. as President: “He would have been so unimaginative, compared to Jack.”

On Democratic governor of Texas, John Connally: “Jack was so sweet. He sort of rubbed my back … and said, ‘You mustn’t say that, you mustn’t say that.’ If you start to say or think that you hate someone, then the next day you’ll act as if you hated him.”

White House speechwriter Theodore Sorensen had a “big inferiority complex” and was “the last person you would invite at night.”…
“You know, Jack forgave so quickly, but I never forgave Ted Sorensen.” (On Sorenson encouraging the perception that he had ghostwritten her husband’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Profiles in Courage.’)

On being asked if Mr. Kennedy was religious: “Oh, yes. Well, I mean, he never missed church one Sunday that we were married or all that, but you could see partly — I often used to think whether it was superstition or not — I mean, he wasn’t quite sure, but if it was that way, he wanted to have that on his side.
It was just like a little childish mannerism, I suppose like brushing your teeth or something. But I thought that was so sweet. It used to amuse me so, standing there.”

“I think he probably did it … rather thinking it might be such a brilliant thing to do because Vietnam was rather hopeless anyway, and put a Republican there.” — Jackie said JFK, a Democrat, had named Henry Cabot Lodge, a Republican he had defeated for a Massachusetts Senate seat in 1952, as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam because JFK was so doubtful of military success there.

“All these twisted poor little women whose lives hadn’t worked out … [They had] this queer thing for power…. resented getting their power through men
I get all my opinions from my husband, which is true. How could I have any political opinions? His were going to be the best…. Women should never be in politics, we’re just not suited for it.”

Schlesinger asks young John if he knows what happened to his father.
“He’s gone to heaven,” the boy replies.
Schlesinger asks what he remembers.
“I don’t remember ANY-thing,” John says playfully.

Jacqueline Kennedy recalled a 1962 White House conversation between Kennedy and historian David Donald about Abraham Lincoln’s presidency:
“‘Do you think’ – it’s the one thing that was on his mind — ‘would Lincoln have been as great a President if he’d lived?’ And Donald, really by going round and round, had agreed with him that Lincoln, you know, it was better — was better for Lincoln that he died when he did.”

HEADLINES & REVIEWS

“I think people really need to understand the purpose of an oral history. And it really – the value of it is it is immediate, it is honest. I think that was very brave of her to do that and to be honest. But it’s got limitations. It’s just – it’s a primary source document. It’s like a diary or something like that, it’s really a snapshot.

This was something where she felt the obligation to be honest and she had always told us that she was going to put it away for 50 years.

There are flashes throughout where I hear her and there are parts to me where it sounds like it was a very long time ago, just the way she speaks and the things she said.

It was funny because my daughters listened to it too and they were just absolutely horrified… ‘Did she really think that?’ And of course time has moved on and it shows you both there are many timeless things in here but it really is a snapshot of a world that we barely recognize.” — Caroline Kennedy on ABC’s Good Morning America

  • Caroline Kennedy on Jacqueline Kennedy’s ‘Brave’ Tapes: My Daughters Were ‘Absolutely Horrified’ at Some OpinionsABC News, 9-14-11
  • In Tapes, Candid Talk by Young Kennedy Widow: The seven-part interview conducted in early 1964 — one of only three that Mrs. Kennedy gave after Mr. Kennedy’s assassination — is being published as a book and an audio recording. In it, the young widow speaks with Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., the historian and Kennedy aide, about her husband’s presidency, their marriage and her role in his political life. They do not discuss his death. The eight and a half hours of interviews had been kept private at the request of Mrs. Kennedy, who never spoke publicly about those years again before she died in 1994. The transcript and recording, obtained by The New York Times, offer an extraordinary immersion in the thoughts and feelings of one of the most enigmatic figures of the second half of the 20th century — the woman who, as much as anyone, helped shape a heroic narrative of the Kennedy years. Though the interviews seem unlikely to redraw the contours of Mr. Kennedy or his presidency, they are packed with intimate observations and insights of the sort that historians treasure…. – NYT, 9-12-11
  • Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words, Historic Conversations on Life with JFK: Hundreds of books have been written about the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Countless documentaries have been made, thousands of testimonials and oral histories given.
    But for almost 50 years, one voice was silent: Jacqueline Kennedy’s.
    Now, in an ABC News exclusive, Diane Sawyer will anchor a two-hour 20/20 special in September in which America will hear Jacqueline Kennedy’s conversations for the first time, put in context by historians and by the woman who knew her best: her own daughter…. – ABC News, 5-25-11
  • ABC News Kennedy Special Most Watched Program at 10pm: ABC News Special “Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words” averaged 8.4 million Total Viewers and a 2.1 rating/5 share among Adults 25-54 and 1.5 rating/4 share among Adults 18-49 for its two-hour broadcast, according to Nielsen Media Research. … – ABC News, 9-14-11
  • Did NBC spoil ratings for ABC’s Jackie Kennedy special?: Seventeen years after her death, Jacqueline Kennedy remains a big draw, especially with newly released recordings that find her dishing dirt on everyone from President Lyndon Johnson to Indian leader Indira Ghandi. But a rival network may have spoiled the big party ABC planned for the event.
    ABC’s two-hour special “Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words” delivered 8.4 million total viewers Tuesday night, according to Nielsen. Host Diane Sawyer picked her way through hours of tapes the former first lady made with historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in early 1964, just months after President Kennedy was assassinated. In the recordings, Jacqueline Kennedy glowingly recounts life with her husband but bashes leaders such as LBJ, Martin Luther King Jr. and Charles de Gaulle…. – LAT, 9-14-11
  • Jackie Kennedy Book Shoots to No. 1 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, debuted at #1 on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists today, its first official release day. Early leaks of the book, which contains the transcript and CDs of the audio recordings of 8.5 hours of interviews Jackie Kennedy did with noted historian Arthur Schlesinger in March 1964, less than four months after the assassination of President John Kennedy, had been the subject of intense media jockeying over the last week. The book also contains introductory essays from Caroline Kennedy and presidential writer Michael Beschloss.
    The book was under a strict sales embargo to protect the exclusive for ABC News’ Diane Sawyer-hosted special, Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words, that aired last night. Some bookstores broke the embargo and The New York Times, the AP, and NBC News acquired early copies last week. Much to the dismay of executives at Disney and ABC, NBC aired audio excerpts on Friday night’s NBC Nightly News with Brian Williamsand followed with additional reports on MSNBC over the next few days. The publicity surrounding the ABC-NBC squabble and the early leaks certainly helped book sales. Eleven days ago, the book was not on Amazon’s Top 100 sellers list but as the publicity grew it steadily rose through the rankings to land at No. 1 today…. – Hollywood Reporter, 9-14-11
  • Audio tapes reveal Jackie Kennedy’s catty side: It wasn’t for her iconic stature as former first lady and wife to a Greek a shipping magnate. And it wasn’t for her doe-eyed beauty and fabulous haute couture wardrobe.
    As in the French salons she tried to bring to the White House, it was because of the conversation – the gossip, mainly, and the way she could skewer an acquaintance with just a few words.
    In the just-released book and audiotapes, made from interviews she gave almost 50 years ago, we get these examples…. – CBS News, 9-14-11
  • Audio tapes reveal Jackie Kennedy’s catty side: Now we know why Jackie Kennedy was such a sought-after dinner guest. It wasn’t for her iconic stature as former first lady and wife to a Greek a shipping magnate. And it wasn’t for her doe-eyed beauty and fabulous haute couture wardrobe.
    As in the French salons she tried to bring to the White House, it was because of the conversation – the gossip, mainly, and the way she could skewer an acquaintance with just a few words…. – CBS News, 9-14-11
  • In Her Own Words: Audio Tapes Reveal New Details of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Life: Jaqueline Kennedy is forever enduring in the national memory for her poise, grace, and impeccable style. But little is known about how she really felt about her years in the White House and of her relationship with President John F. Kennedy. Now, the world is privy to rare details of the presidency and private life thanks to an oral history of the president, conducted with the widowed First Lady in early 1964, just months after his assassination.
    The 8.5-hour-long series of audio interviews, as well as transcripts, are being released this week as a book entitled “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy.” The interviews were conducted by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., a historian and Kennedy aide who was close to the family. Previously locked up in the Kennedy Library, the tapes are being released 47 years after they were first conducted. They’re chock-full of juicy gossip and surprising details of the iconic couple’s life…. – Time, 9-12-11
  • New book and audiotapes show new and more personal side to Jackie Kennedy: It’s a side of Jacqueline Kennedy only friends and family knew. Funny and inquisitive, canny and cutting.
    In “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy,” the former first lady was not yet the jet-setting celebrity of the late 1960s or the literary editor of the 1970s and 1980s. But she was also nothing like the soft-spoken fashion icon of the three previous years. She was in her mid-30s, recently widowed, but dry-eyed and determined to set down her thoughts for history.
    Kennedy met with historian and former White House aide Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in her 18th-century Washington house in the spring and early summer of 1964. At home and at ease, as if receiving a guest for afternoon tea, she chatted about her husband and their time in the White House. The young Kennedy children, Caroline and John Jr., occasionally popped in. On the accompanying audio discs, you can hear the shake of ice inside a drinking glass. The tapes were to be sealed for decades and were among the last documents of her private thoughts. She never wrote a memoir and became a legend in part because of what we didn’t know.
    The book comes out Wednesday as part of an ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s first year in office. Jacqueline Kennedy died in 1994, and Schlesinger in 2007…. – AP, 9-13-11
  • Remembering Jacqueline Kennedy: Tomorrow Hyperion will release a set of Jacqueline Kennedy oral histories in book and audio format. The Times yesterday published excerpts from the tapes and tonight ABC will air a two-hour special on them. Mrs. Kennedy’s candid remarks about members of her husband’s Administration and other public figures, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., have already generated much controversy and discussion…. – New Yorker, 9-13-11
  • Jacqueline Kennedy’s candid look at life with JFK: In the conversations, Kennedy, then 34 years old, also recalls her time in the White House with her husband, John F. Kennedy, as “our happiest years.” The tapes, which have been kept under seal at the Kennedy Library, were released by Caroline Kennedy, 53, who was editor of the book Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, being published this week by Hyperion. Conducted by Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the historian and Kennedy friend and aide, the interviews capture both the intimacy and Cold War tensions at the Kennedy White House…. – USA Today, 9-14-11
  • Will the Jackie Kennedy Tapes Change the Way You Think of Camelot? Audio tapes and book reveal a seven-part interview with Jackie Kennedy conducted in 1964: A 1964 seven-part interview between Jackie Kennedy and Kennedy historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was published as a book and audio tapes Wednesday. The interview was conducted soon after John F. Kennedy’s assassination as part of an oral history of the Kennedy presidency. The tapes were kept under wraps at the first lady’s request, but were finally released by her daughter Caroline to mark the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy administration.
    The tapes provide an intimate look of the marriage between Jackie and the president, as well as her perspective on the people and events that made up the “Camelot” era. In excerpts released in advance, she warmly recalls the 45 minute naps President Kennedy would take—in his pajamas—in the middle of each day. She also recounts the anxiety of the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which she says she told her husband, “If anything happens, we’re all going to stay right here with you. I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too—than live without you.”
    Some of her remarks in the interview are much more controversial. She calls French President Charles de Gaulle an “egomaniac,” civil rights leader Martin Luther King a “phony,” and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi “a real prune—bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman.” She also remembers the president saying of his vice president Lyndon B. Johnson, “Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon were president?”
    Some who have already heard the tapes describe them as “explosive.”… – US News, 9-12-11
  • ‘Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words’: Did Diane Sawyer’s special change your opinions about Jackie O?: On the eve of the release of historian Michael Beschloss’ new book, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, Diane Sawyer hosted a two-hour long special chronicling the previously unheard eight-and-a-half hours worth of audio of the former First Lady.
    The ABC special — watch it here — featured the revealing interviews that historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. conducted with Mrs. Kennedy just four months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as well Sawyer’s interview with Caroline Kennedy, who revealed why she opted to release the tapes to the public now…. – EW, 9-14-11
  • Listening to the other voice in the Jackie Kennedy interviews: The voice of Jackie Kennedy’s interviewer belongs to the late historian and former JFK aide Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., whose writings are again timely in this tea-party era. He noted that the Founding Fathers embraced government as a vital help, not an obstacle, to progress…. — CS Monitor, 9-15-11
  • Jackie: JFK mused on own assassination: John F. Kennedy joked about his own possible assassination in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, according to recently released tapes of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
    The tapes, which were the product of conversations with historian and former White House aide Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in the spring and early summer of 1964, have been released in book form as part of an ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s first year in office…. – CBS News, 9-14-11

    HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

    “It’s certainly not the Jackie that we knew later on. By then, she’s a different woman.” — Doris Kearns Goodwin, the historian and wife of Richard Goodwin, a Kennedy aide, said in an interview

    The Jackie Kennedy tapes: Catty, but won’t change history: “If people are looking for revelations about her, they will not find them. What I think they reveal is an unerring, all-observing eye…. She did not want to be implored and lobbied by people who wanted her to influence policy, so she assumed a public persona of the ‘anti-Eleanor Roosevelt.’ She was very tactical — almost like a spy.” — Carl Anthony, one of the country’s leading experts on first ladies — WaPo, 9-12-11

    “This book shows Jackie Kennedy unplugged. A lot of the rawness of her feelings, I think, as a young woman — she’s is only in her 30s when she is doing these tapes in 1964 — is very different from the more poised and discreet Jackie Kennedy we got to know in the 1980s and 1990s….
    I “was close to Arthur Schlesinger, the professor. He died a few years ago. Ted Sorensen, one of the other keepers of the flame, died, and I think Caroline Kennedy thought, it’s the 50th anniversary right now of the Kennedy presidency, and this is sitting there, and it was time to let her mother have her say, and decided to come public with this.” — Historian and CBS News analyst Douglas Brinkley on the “Early Show”

    Michael Beschloss: I was surprised that she seemed to have so much influence on JFK’s attitudes toward the people who worked for him. For instance, she she says she disliked Secretary of State Dean Rusk and wished JFK would fire him. He told her he intended to do so in 1964. Others she admired, like Robert McNamara, the Defense Secretary, did extremely well in the Kennedy government. She may not have been the only reason, but what she privately told JFK didn’t hurt. There are many other instances of this in the book.

    Her voice has been virtually missing from the thousands of books written about the Kennedys in the past half-century. After all that’s been written about her, it’s illuminating to listen to her speak for herself without that kind of filter.

    She occasionally would stop the recorder and ask Schlesinger if she should discuss such-and-such. As he later recalled, he almost always told her, “Say everything — you control the tape.” — EW, 9-14-11

    Catherine Allgor: Historian Offers Insight on Jacqueline Kennedy: Catherine Allgor, UC Riverside expert on American first ladies, calls Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis a “woman of her time and place.”
    Jackie Kennedy, Allgor says, “was a woman of her time and place.” “Her articulateness, her insight, her apparent education juxtaposes uneasily with her little-girl wistfulness and her aching insecurity. The Jacqueline we see in photographs and waving at crowds gives an impression of confident command, but the woman so happy that she has made her husband proud has more in common with her infamous relative, ‘Little Edie’ of Grey Gardens (the rundown mansion where Jackie Kennedy’s aunt and first cousin, Edith ‘Big Edie’ Bouvier Beale and Edith ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale lived). Both were women of refinement and intelligence trapped in privileged worlds ruled by men. Both tug at the heart strings.”
    Popular consensus is that the Jacqueline Kennedy tapes won’t add much to our understanding of that period of U.S. history, Allgor says. She disagrees: “That depends on whose history. Her remarks about her marriage and how she felt about herself, about men and women, show Americans how much feminism changed our lives, and how far we have to go.” — UCR Newsroom, 9-14-11

History Buzz Michael Beschloss & Caroline Kennedy: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy Book & Transcript Excerpts

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

IN FOCUS: JACQUELINE KENNEDY: HISTORIC CONVERSATION WITH JOHN F. KENNEDY & IN HER OWN WORDS

Jacqueline Kennedy

INTRODUCTION

Caroline Kennedy, Michael Beschloss. Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. Hyperion; Har/Com edition, September 14, 2011

Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words: Online Video ABC

Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words: Jacqueline Kennedy’s style, elegance and courage helped to define an era, but she never spoke publicly about her White House years. Four months after her husband’s death, she recorded a series of interviews for history, specifying the tapes not be released until the appropriate time. Now, nearly 50 years later, Kennedy’s tapes have been released to the public in a new book and audio set…. ABC News

In 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy recorded seven historic interviews about her life with John F. Kennedy. Now, for the first time, they can be heard and read in this deluxe, illustrated book and 8-CD set.
Shortly after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, with a nation deep in mourning and the world looking on in stunned disbelief, Jacqueline Kennedy found the strength to set aside her own personal grief for the sake of posterity and begin the task of documenting and preserving her husband’s legacy. In January of 1964, she and Robert F. Kennedy approved a planned oral-history project that would capture their first-hand accounts of the late President as well as the recollections of those closest to him throughout his extraordinary political career. For the rest of her life, the famously private Jacqueline Kennedy steadfastly refused to discuss her memories of those years, but beginning that March, she fulfilled her obligation to future generations of Americans by sitting down with historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and recording an astonishingly detailed and unvarnished account of her experiences and impressions as the wife and confidante of John F. Kennedy. The tapes of those sessions were then sealed and later deposited in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum upon its completion, in accordance with Mrs. Kennedy’s wishes.
The resulting eight and a half hours of material comprises a unique and compelling record of a tumultuous era, providing fresh insights on the many significant people and events that shaped JFK’s presidency but also shedding new light on the man behind the momentous decisions. Here are JFK’s unscripted opinions on a host of revealing subjects, including his thoughts and feelings about his brothers Robert and Ted, and his take on world leaders past and present, giving us perhaps the most informed, genuine, and immediate portrait of John Fitzgerald Kennedy we shall ever have. Mrs. Kennedy’s urbane perspective, her candor, and her flashes of wit also give us our clearest glimpse into the active mind of a remarkable First Lady.
In conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s Inauguration, Caroline Kennedy and the Kennedy family are now releasing these beautifully restored recordings on CDs with accompanying transcripts. Introduced and annotated by renowned presidential historian Michael Beschloss, these interviews will add an exciting new dimension to our understanding and appreciation of President Kennedy and his time and make the past come alive through the words and voice of an eloquent eyewitness to history.

JACKIE KENNEDY TRANSCRIPT EXCERPTS

On her husband’s opinion of Lyndon Johnson:

“Jack said it to me sometimes. He said, ‘Oh, God can you ever imagine what would happen if Lyndon was president?’

“Jack would say you could never get an opinion out of Lyndon at any cabinet or national security meeting. He’d just say, you know, that he agreed with them – with everyone – or just keep really quiet.

“So Lyndon, as vice-president, didn’t just do anything.”

On Charles de Gaulle and France

“De Gaulle was my hero when I married Jack,” she says.

But after meeting the French leader during a May 1961 visit, she says she found him “so full of spite”.

She also says: “I loathe the French… They are not very nice, they are all for themselves.”

On fears during the Cuban Missile Crisis

“I went up and listened and eavesdropped [to a debate on the issue]. I could hear [Former Secretary of Defence Robert] McNamara saying something and then I thought I must not listen and went away. But from then on it seemed there was no waking or sleeping.

“And I just don’t know which day was which. And I never left the house or saw the children and when he came home if it was for sleep or for a nap I would sleep with him.

“Please don’t send me away to Camp David. Please don’t send me anywhere, if anything happens we’re all going to stay right here with you. Even if there’s not room in the bomb shelter in the White House, which I’d seen I said then I just want to be on the lawn when it happens, well I just want to be with you and I just want to die with you and the children do too.”

On JFK joking about the threat of assassination

“And then I remember Jack saying after the Cuban missile crisis, when it all turned [out] so fantastically, he said, ‘Well, if anyone’s ever going to shoot me, this would be the day they should do it.'”

On her husband

“I just wish he could have seen some more good things come in, that he worked so hard for. The tax bill, the civil rights bill, the economy up so high.

“He really did so much. There wasn’t that much more to do, except it would have gelled.”

“Once I asked him – I think this is rather touching – if he could have one wish, what would it be? In other words, you know, looking back on his life, and he said, ‘I wish I had more good times.'”

On JFK’s reaction to the botched Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba

“He came back over to the White House to his bedroom and he started to cry, just with me. You know, just for one – just put his head in his hands and sort of wept.

“It was so sad, because all his first 100 days and all his dreams, and then this awful thing to happen. And he cared so much.”

On Martin Luther King

“I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible.”

On entering the White House

“I was always a liability to him [John F Kennedy], everyone thought I was a snob from Newport who had bouffant hair and had French clothes and hated politics.”

“When we got in the White House all the things that I’d always done suddenly became wonderful. And I was so happy for Jack. He could be proud of me then because it made him so happy. Made me so happy. So those were our happiest years.”

On JFK meeting Winston Churchill in the 1950s

“Jack had always wanted to meet Churchill. Well, the poor man was really quite ga-ga then.

“I felt so sorry for Jack that evening because he was meeting his hero, only he met him too late.”

On future Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

She calls Ms Gandhi a “bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman.”

FOREWARD BY CAROLINE KENNEDY

In 1964, as part of an oral history project on the life and career of John F. Kennedy, my mother sat down with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., to share her memories and insights. Recorded less than four months after the death of her husband, they represent a gift to history and a labor of love on her part. In order to treat them with the appropriate respect, my children and I took very seriously the decision to publish them now, in connection with the fiftieth anniversary of my father’s presidency. The moment seems right—enough time has passed so that they can be appreciated for their unique insight, yet the Kennedy presidency is still within living memory for many who will find her observations illuminating. I hope too that younger generations who are just learning about the 1960s will find these reminiscences a useful introduction to how history is made, and will be inspired to give back to this country that has given us all so much.

When I was growing up, my mother spent much of her time meeting behind closed doors with members of my father’s administration, planning his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery, making sure that the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts would reflect his commitment to our country’s cultural heritage, executing his wishes for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and the Institute of Politics, and making countless decisions on the disposition of my father’s official papers, personal effects, mementos, and memorabilia. She was determined that the Kennedy Library would be a living memorial, a place where students would be inspired to pursue careers in public service, where scholars would have access to the historical record, and where families could learn about the ideals that animated my father’s career and his vision for America. These meetings were somewhat mysterious, but my brother and I had a sense that nothing was more important than the “oral history” that we heard about from time to time.

My parents shared a love of history. To them, the past was not an academic concern, but a gathering of the most fascinating people you could ever hope to meet. My father’s interests were political—I still have his books on the Civil War and English parliamentary history, as well as his annotated copy of The Federalist Papers. My mother thought there weren’t enough women in American history to make it as interesting as reading novels and diaries from the courts of Europe. She read War and Peace during the Wisconsin primary, and maintained that reading the Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon about life at Versailles was the most valuable preparation she received for life in the White House.

After my father’s death, my mother resolved to do everything she could to make sure that the record of his administration was preserved. She had confidence that his decisions would stand the test of time and wanted future generations to learn what an extraordinary man he was. She helped set in motion one of the most extensive oral history projects ever conducted up to that time, in which more than one thousand people were interviewed about their life and work with John F. Kennedy. Although it was painful for my mother to relive the life since shattered, she knew it was important that she participate. She always told us that she chose to be interviewed by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, former Harvard professor, and special assistant to President Kennedy, because she was doing this for future generations, and that was why she put the tapes in a vault to be sealed for fifty years.

I first read transcripts of these conversations a few weeks after my mother’s death in 1994 when the vault was opened and her lawyer gave me a copy. Everything about that time was overwhelming for me as I found myself faced with the same sorts of decisions about her possessions that she had made thirty years earlier. Knowing her wishes for the oral history made it easy—I knew I was reading something that wasn’t supposed to be seen yet—and although I found it fascinating, I put it back in the vault to await its time.

A few years ago, my family began thinking about how to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of my father’s presidency. We decided to concentrate our efforts on projects that would make his legacy accessible worldwide. Working with the staff of the John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation and generous private partners, my husband led the effort to create the largest existing digital archive of a presidency, as well as online curricula, downloadable exhibits, and a Web site—www.jfk50.org—intended to renew my father’s call to service for today’s generation.

The publication of these interviews is an important contribution to this commemorative effort, and one with its own story. When the director of the Kennedy Library first approached me with the idea, I asked him to search the archives to confirm my mother’s wishes regarding the date of publication. Surprisingly, given the importance of the material, there was no deed of gift or transfer, nor a letter of intent regarding the date at which the interviews were to be opened. There was only a brief notation by a former government archivist that these interviews were “subject to the same restrictions as the Manchester interviews.” By way of background, there are three significant interviews that my mother gave after my father’s death. The first was to Theodore H. White in Hyannis Port on November 29, 1963, only a few days after my father’s funeral. In that interview, my mother famously told White that she and my father used to listen to the record of the Broadway musical Camelot in the evening before they went to bed, and looking back, “that one brief shining moment” reminded her of his presidency. White’s article was published a week later in Life magazine, but the notes of his interview were sealed until one year after my mother’s death. They are now open to researchers at the Kennedy Library in Boston.

The second set of conversations was with William Manchester, who was writing a book called The Death of a President. During the sessions my mother said more about my father’s assassination than she had intended. Subsequently, she became so upset at the thought of her personal memories becoming public that she sued the author and publisher to keep them out of the book. A settlement was reached, and although much of the content made its way into the public sphere, the notes of the interviews were sealed for 100 years—that is, until 2067.

By far the most important were these oral history conversations with Arthur Schlesinger in which my mother willingly recalled the span of her married life, and shared her insights into my father’s private and public political personality. The archivist’s notation regarding the date of publication was not consistent with my memory, nor did it seem to reflect my mother’s wishes. I checked with former members of her staff in the White House and afterward, as well as other friends and attorneys. No one had a recollection that differed from mine, and they were enthusiastic about the idea of publication.

So I was faced with a dilemma that I have confronted numerous times in connection with my mother’s personal papers and correspondence. On one hand, she was a famously private person who gave no on-the-record interviews (other than these three) about life in the White House, and requested in her will that my brother and I make every effort to prevent publication of her personal papers, letters, and writings.

However, she also saved every scrap of paper that came her way—every birthday card or telegram, every letter from her parents, every date book and diary, every draft letter or memo she ever wrote. She knew that living in the White House was an enormous privilege and she was proud of the part she had played. Early on, when she discovered that one of her secretaries was throwing out notes and internal correspondence that chronicled both daily life and the official workings of the mansion, she wrote a steaming rebuke—directing everyone on her staff to save even the smallest scribbles. Her deep immersion in memoirs of the past informed her belief that she had an obligation to preserve everything that happened during her time in the White House. In the years since her death, I have asked myself the question, When does someone no longer belong to you, but belong to history? Few people have been written about more than my mother, and I grew up feeling I needed to protect her—just as she had protected us. So at first I thought it best to leave these interviews sealed for another fifty years, rather than to expose her memory to one more round of gossip and speculation. But I also understand that the continuing interest in her life is a tribute to the immense admiration and goodwill she still commands, and I believe that open access to government is an important American value.

Over the years, I have received multiple requests to publish my mother’s memos and correspondence. At times, it has been difficult to balance her wish for privacy against her public role and pay proper respect to both. Although I agonize over each request, I know that my mother trusted my judgment and felt that I understood her outlook on life. As the years pass, it has become less painful to share her with the world, and in fact, it is a privilege. As her child, it has sometimes been hard for me to reconcile that most people can identify my mother instantly, but they really don’t know her at all. They may have a sense of her style and her dignified persona, but they don’t always appreciate her intellectual curiosity, her sense of the ridiculous, her sense of adventure, or her unerring sense of what was right. Over time, I have tried to draw the line between her public and private life much as I think she did—I try to accommodate requests that pertain to my father’s career, life in the White House, historic events and historic preservation, while denying permission for publication of her writings as a private citizen—whether as a young woman or a working editor.

These conversations are not in the same category as her personal writings, because they were recorded with the intention that they would be made accessible one day. So it was not a question of whether to publish but a question of when, and the decision was up to me. My experience with other requests informed my decision that the time was right.

In reaching this conclusion, I found it helpful to remember the context in which the interviews were conducted, and the timing of when they occurred. The goal was to create a record of my father’s life and career from the memories of those who knew and worked with him. Accordingly, the questions follow a loosely chronological sequence beginning with my father’s early political battles in Massachusetts, his 1956 fight for the vice-presidential nomination, the 1960 campaign, the transition to the presidency, the Inauguration, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, official and family life in the White House, and plans for the 1964 campaign and a second term. Along the way, there are discussions that reveal much about the central characters and events of the time in both domestic politics and international affairs.

The decision was complicated by my conviction that if my mother had reviewed the transcripts, I have no doubt she would have made revisions. She was a young widow in the extreme stages of grief. The interviews were conducted only four months after she had lost her husband, her home, and her sense of purpose. She had two young children to raise alone. It isn’t surprising that there are some statements she would later have considered too personal, and others too harsh. There are things I am sure she would have added, and her views certainly evolved over time. I struggled with the question of whether to delete remarks that might be taken out of context. I was aware that my intentions might be misinterpreted, even if the edited version was a more “accurate” reflection of how she really felt. After much deliberation, I decided to maintain the integrity of the audio interviews as a primary source while editing the text slightly for readability, not content, as has been done with other presidential transcripts and oral history interviews.

My reservations were mitigated by the remarkable immediacy and the informality of the conversations. Knowing my mother so well, I can hear her voice in my mind when I read her words on a page. I can tell when she is emotional, when she is enjoying herself, or is getting annoyed—though she is unfailingly polite. Even though most of her answers are about my father, by listening to the audio, people will learn a great deal about the person that she was. Much is revealed by her tone, and by her pauses as well as by her statements. I trust that readers and listeners will place her views in context to build an accurate and composite portrait of a person and a moment in time, and that her devotion to her husband will come through to others as it does to me.

In addition to their passion for history, my parents shared a conviction that American civilization had come of age. Today this seems an unremarkable proposition, but at the time the United States was just emerging as a global power, and people still looked to Europe for direction and leadership. My parents believed America should lead with her ideals, not just with economic or military power, and they wanted to share our artistic and cultural achievements with the world. My mother played a critical role in the development of what is now called “soft diplomacy.” She traveled with my father and on her own, often speaking the language of the countries she visited. She was an international sensation.

She also understood that the White House itself was a powerful symbol of our democracy, and wanted to make sure it projected the best of America to students and families who visited, as well as to foreign heads of state who were entertained there. She worked hard—not to “redecorate,” a word she hated—but to “restore” the White House so that the legacy of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln would be visible. She recast the White House Library to showcase classic works of American history and literature. She established the Fine Arts Committee and White House Historical Association to assemble a permanent collection of American paintings and decorative arts that would become one of the nation’s finest. She made the White House the world’s greatest stage and invited the world’s foremost artists to perform there. She welcomed young musicians, emerging African-American opera singers, jazz musicians, and modern dancers—all to awaken and expand appreciation for American arts and culture.

She felt strongly that as our capital city, Washington, D.C., should reflect America’s newly prominent place in the world. She fought to preserve Lafayette Square, and launched the effort to rehabilitate Pennsylvania Avenue—an effort that has been sustained ever since. My mother understood that the past was a source of pride for people around the world, just as it is in America, and convinced my father that the United States could build goodwill among countries like Egypt, with which we had political differences, by assisting in their historic preservation efforts. Her persistence resulted in a generous U.S. contribution to the UNESCO rescue of the temples of Abu Simbel, which were threatened by the construction of the Aswan Dam, and favorably impressed the Nasser regime. In another example of cultural diplomacy, my mother was responsible for the Mona Lisa’s visit to the United States, the only time the painting has ever left the Louvre.

Most important, she believed her responsibility was to help my father in every way she could. Although she became a diplomatic and even a political asset, she never thought she deserved the title “First Lady,” which she disliked anyway, claiming it sounded like the name of a racehorse. But she was deeply patriotic and proud of what she accomplished, and my father was proud of her too. Their time in the White House was the happiest of her life.

Given the important role Jacqueline Kennedy played in the presidency of John F. Kennedy and its aftermath, it seemed a disservice to let her perspective remain absent from the public and scholarly debate that would accompany the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy administration. Fifty years seems a sufficient time for passions to have cooled, yet recent enough that the world described still has much to teach us. The sense of time passing was made more acute by the loss of my uncle Teddy and my aunt Eunice in 2009, by Ted Sorensen in 2010, and my uncle Sarge in January 2011.

But, before making the final decision, I asked my children to read the transcripts and tell me what they thought. Their reactions were not so different from my own. They found the conversations dated in many ways—but fascinating in many more. They loved the stories about their grandfather, and how insightful yet irreverent their grandmother was. They were puzzled by some of Arthur Schlesinger’s questions—personal rivalries he pursued and particular issues that have not stood the test of time. They wished that he had asked more questions about her.

But they came away with the same conclusions that I had reached—there was no significant reason to put off publication and no one speaks better for my mother than she does herself.

—NEW YORK, 2011

Remembering R. Sargent Shriver: Peace Corps Founder Dies at 95

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

REMEBERING SARGENT SHRIVER: PEACE CORPS FOUNDER, DIES AT 95

JOB WELL DONE! Robert Sargent Shriver...

  • R. Sargent Shriver has died: Robert Sargent Shriver, the former Peace Corps director and vice-presidential nominee, has passed away.
  • Sargent Shriver, former Peace Corps director, Dies — NYT Slideshow
  • R. Sargent Shriver, Peace Corps Leader, Dies at 95: R. Sargent Shriver, the Kennedy in-law who became the founding director of the Peace Corps, the architect of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty, a United States ambassador to France and the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1972, died on Tuesday in Bethesda, Md. He was 95. Mr. Shriver was found to have Alzheimer’s disease in 2003 and on Sunday was admitted to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, where he died. He had been in hospice care in recent months after his estate in Potomac, Md., was sold last year.
    White-haired and elegantly attired, he attended the inauguration of his son-in-law, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the Republican governor of California in the fall of 2003. Mr. Schwarzenegger is married to Maria Shriver, a former NBC News correspondent. But in recent years, as his condition deteriorated, Mr. Shriver was seldom seen in public. He emerged in one instance to attend the funeral of his wife of 56 years, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a sister of John F. Kennedy; she died in 2009 in Hyannis, Mass., at the age of 88…. – NYT, 1-18-11
  • ‘Sarge’ Shriver, founder of Peace Corps, dead at 95: Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., founder of the Peace Corps and husband of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, died yesterday after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
    The 95-year-old former vice-presidential candidate, known fondly as “Sarge,” “went to heaven to join the love of his life,” the family said in a statement.
    Shriver died at a Maryland hospital surrounded by his five children — Bobby, Maria, Tim, Mark and Anthony — their spouses and 19 grandchildren. His death came less than two years after his wife died in August 2009 at age 88.
    “He was a man of giant love, energy, enthusiasm and commitment. He lived to make the world a more joyful, faithful and compassionate place,” the family statement read. “We will miss him forever.” – Boston Herald, 1-18-11
  • Sargent Shriver, founding director of Peace Corps, dies at 95: Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., husband of the late Eunice Kennedy and father of five children, spent more than seven decades in public service.
    R. Sargent Shriver, who was tapped to create the Peace Corps by his brother-in-law John F. Kennedy and crafted 1960s-era programs that remain cornerstones in the federal government’s efforts to combat poverty, died Jan. 18 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, a family spokesman said. He was 95 and had Alzheimer’s disease.
    A Yale-educated lawyer from a prominent Maryland family, Mr. Shriver was a businessman and aspiring political leader when he married Eunice Kennedy in the early 1950s. He served in three presidential administrations, including a stint as U.S. ambassador to France, and ran for president and vice president. His ambitions were as much propelled as they were frustrated by his connection to his in-laws, the powerful political dynasty from Massachusetts.
    When the family received word in 1964 that President Lyndon B. Johnson was considering Mr. Shriver as a running mate, Eunice balked. “No,” she reportedly said, and then invoked her brother Robert’s name. “It’s Bob’s turn.” Kennedy aide Ken O’Donnell was more straightforward, telling Mr. Shriver that if any of the inner circle were to run, it would be Bobby – not “half a Kennedy.”
    Still, it was Mr. Shriver’s status as an almost-Kennedy that landed him the role for which he is perhaps best known, as the leader of the Peace Corps during its infancy…. – WaPo, 1-18-11
  • Shriver family gave voice to ‘silent epidemic’ Public figure’s battle with Alzheimer’s helped normalize disease: Battling Alzheimer’s disease is often a private struggle, with few champions who speak on behalf of patients and their loved ones. But the family of R. Sargent Shriver, who died Tuesday, helped shed light on the disease and spur support and research for its causes.
    Since his diagnosis in 2003, the family of the influential public servant and founder of the Peace Corps had sought to change the public perception of people with Alzheimer’s so they would not be viewed as victims, said geriatrician William Thomas, professor at UMBC’s Erickson School of Aging.
    “Instead, he was a person living with Alzheimer’s, and that’s an absolutely crucial distinction,” Thomas said. “What the Shrivers were about were sort of normalizing this disease. It is important for people of stature, like the Shrivers, to step into the light and to be seen and to tell their story, because so many other people feel like they can’t do that.”… – LAT, 1-18-11
  • Statement by the President on the Passing of Sargent Shriver: I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Sargent Shriver, one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation. Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Sarge came to embody the idea of public service. Of his many enduring contributions, he will perhaps best be remembered as the founding director of the Peace Corps, helping make it possible for generations of Americans to serve as ambassadors of goodwill abroad. His loss will be felt in all of the communities around the world that have been touched by Peace Corps volunteers over the past half century and all of the lives that have been made better by his efforts to address inequality and injustice here at home. My thoughts and prayers are with Robert, Maria, Tim, Mark, and Anthony, and the entire Shriver family during this sad time. – WH, 1-18-11

On This Day in History… April 23-30, 1968: Columbia University Students Stage a Strike

April 23-30, 1968: Columbia University Students Stage a Strike

by Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

HNN, 4-29-08


On this day in history…April 23-30, 1968 leftist students took over Columbia University, NYC occupying five buildings on the campus before forcibly being removed by the police.

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of one of the most turbulent years in modern American history. The year was just beginning and yet as early as Aprils it was already volatile. Opposition to the Vietnam War was at an all time high, so much so that President Lyndon Johnson chose not to run for another presidential term. Just a few weeks before Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated, and student protests raged across the country’s universities, peaking in April 1968 with the stand off at Columbia University. According to historian Jeffrey Meyers, the protests “took place during a volatile and often explosive period in American history: between the Berkeley Free Speech Movement (September 1964) and the student riots in Paris, May 1968, between the assassinations of Martin Luther King in Memphis, April 4, 1968 and of Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles, June 5, 1968, between the March on the Pentagon, October 1967 and the bloody protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, August 1968, between the Tet Offensive February 1968 and the My Lai Massacre, March 1968, and the escalating protest against the war in Vietnam.” (Myers, 2003) On April 23, leftist students began a strike at the university, which lasted eight days, culminating in a riot in the early hours of April 30 when the police busted the students.

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at Columbia University

In 1962 Tom Hayden, a twenty-one year old student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor created the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Along with other student activists at the university, they wrote out the Port Huron Statement, the organization’s statement of principles. In only two years, there were 40 SDS chapters on university campuses. Among the organization’s purposes was educating their fellow students about “the evils of capitalism, the plight of blacks, and the perfidies of the military-industrial complex.” (McCaughey, 427) In 1965, as the US was going on the offense in Vietnam, SDS turned its attention to the war.

On March 10, 1965, Columbia University established the fifty-second chapter of SDS, led by Ted Kaptchuck and Dave Gilbert. In its first few months, the chapter focused its attention on building its membership, which included campus radicals and sympathetic faculty, and trying to determine what the relationship was between the university and the country’s defense establishment. (McCaughey, 427) There were other leftist student groups at Columbia including the Columbia Citizenship Council (CCC), organized in 1959 with a mission to help the local community. Most of the University’s chaplains sympathized or supported the leftist groups.

During the revolt a majority of students supported neither the protesters nor the counter protesters. As Robert A. McCaughey writes in his account, “The students who joined SDS, CCC, and anti-war groups and who became sufficiently persuaded of the complicity of the university in the perpetuation of whatever evil they were protesting to move to shut it down were a minority in a minority.” McCaughey, 428 Columbia University had 20,000 students at the time, 6,000 of whom were undergraduates. By comparison, the radical organizations on campus boasted just three hundred members, with another seven hundred more providing moral support. SDS had just fifty members with another hundred supporters. The majority of the student activists were undergraduates. McCaughey, 428

Leading up to the Revolt: SDS Protests 1965-1967

Student protests against the university’s authority commenced in the spring of 1965. The university took minimal actions against the protesters to minimize media attention. University President Grayson Kirk believed the best policy was to keep the disruptions to a minimum, which would have worked, according to McCaughey, “had student protesters wanted immunity in exchange for not directly challenging the president’s disciplinary authority. But it was precisely the latter that the protesters wanted.” (McCaughey, 431) The students primarily opposed military-related recruiters on campus including the NROTC, the Marine Corps, the CIA and Dow Chemical (which supplied Agent Orange for the Vietnam War).

The university’s patience was tested in the spring of 1967 when CIA and Marine Corps recruiters came to the campus sparking anti-war protests. Two incidents prompted President Kirk to ban all indoor demonstrations for the next academic year. By the fall of 1967, SDS seemed to be losing momentum. The majority of Columbia’s students opposed the protests, SDS could not forge alliances with other leftist groups, and the groups were divided by internal battles. The student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, noted on October 30, 1967 that the tactics of SDS were ineffective.

The Three Issues at the Center of the Revolt

There were three central issues behind the revolt with two factions merging together for a common goal; opposition to the university’s administration. The first issue was Columbia University’s proposed expansion into Harlem. The university was planning to build a new gymnasium on city park property in Morningside Heights bordering Harlem. Both Columbia students and local residents would be using the gym; however, they would use separate entrances. Although Harlem civic organizations approved the project, militants objecting to the use of separate entrances, claiming this was an example of blatant racism. (Meyers, 2003) African-American students from the Students’ African-American Society (SAS) and the CCC protested the expansion, calling the new building “Gym Crow.”

At SDS there was a power struggle between Ted Kaptchuk, who wanted to focus on membership, recruitment, and education (what critics referred to as the “praxis axis”) and Mark Rudd, who was more interested in “direct confrontation with authorities.” (McCaughey, 437) Rudd, a junior who had just returned from an extended trip to Cuba, believed in participatory democracy. On March 13, 1968, Rudd was elected chairman of the Columbia SDS chapter on the slogan: “How to get the SDS Moving Again and Screw the University All in One Fell Swoop.” (McCaughey, 437) Rudd was unpopular with many. Columbia’s faculty disliked his arrogance, and those on the radical left objected to his suburban New Jersey upbringing, his athletic country club good looks and his male chauvinism. Tom Hayden described Rudd as “absolutely committed to an impossible yet galvanizing dream: that of transforming the entire student movement through this particular student revolt, into a successful effort to bring down the system.” But Hayden also described Rudd as “sarcastic and smugly dogmatic.” (McCaughey, 437)

Another of the issues that preoccupied radical students was the university’s often secret involvement and affiliation with the Institute of Defense Analysis. (Conlin, 284) The IDA did not issue contracts, but affiliated universities got preferential treatment from agencies that did. Columbia’s involvement with the IDA was common knowledge. What was not known, however, was the extent of the university’s military research. Columbia’s Institute of East European Studies was accumulating economic data for the CIA, while faculty members may have been conducting some contract research. The news came as a surprise to the university community. SDS was firmly committed to convincing the university to disengage itself from the IDA, and in March 1968, around 1,700 Columbia students signed a petition urging the university to break its affiliation as had other universities such as the University of Chicago.

The third issue was the university’s crackdown on the protesters, though this was slow to materialize. In February when two hundred students protested against Dow Chemical recruiters on campus, they went unpunished, as did Mark Rudd a few weeks later when he shoved a lemon meringue pie in the face of the visiting New York City director of Selective Service. But when at the end of March Rudd and a hundred members of SDS staged a new protest at Low Library six of the group’s leaders were identified and put on probation. Immediately the gym issue became relevant, and SDS students began protesting the disciplinary action, declaiming: “No disciplinary action against the Low Six.” (McCaughey, 440) The students claimed their constitutional rights had been violated.

Spring 1968 Events Leading up to the Campus Revolt

In early 1968, the tension that had been mounting around the country’s campuses had “reached a fever pitch.” (Davis, 39) The primary reasons were the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson’s announcement that he would not seek another term, and Martin Luther King’s assassination. SDS saw Johnson’s announcement as a reason to distrust all US institutions including the university administration. As Kirkpatrick Sale explains: “April began the escalation of student resistance that would mark this spring as the most explosive period up to that time in the history of American universities.” (Sale, 429) Columbia’s SDS protest coincided with the Tens Days of Resistance, a massive demonstration against the Vietnam War on campuses all over the country. Fifty colleges and universities participated. On the campuses there were “rallies, marches, teach-ins, and sit-ills, climaxing in a one-day ‘student strike’ on April 26.” As Sale writes, “It was a demonstration of significant proportions — probably as many as a million students stayed away from classes … and yet somehow its impact on the public was slight.” (Sale, 429)

It was the memorial for Martin Luther King, Jr. at Columbia that made the April riots all but inevitable. One of the chaplains at Columbia, John D. Cannon, believed there should be a memorial service. President Kirk and Provost David Truman were not invited until they heard about the plan and insisted on participating. Their presence prompted the SAS not to attend. Held on April 9, the service was well-attended, and was going smoothly until Mark Rudd came to the pulpit while Truman was speaking and “proceeded to declare the service an ‘obscenity’ given Columbia’s systematic mistreatment of blacks and workers King had lost his life championing.” (McCaughey, 441)

Afterwards Rudd left the chapel with forty other students; the walkout shocked the faculty and administration in attendance. The administration was unable to take disciplinary action against Rudd because Chaplain Cannon essentially blessed Rudd’s action by claiming “that St. Paul’s welcomed the views of anyone ‘who sincerely believes he is moved by the spirit.’” (McCaughey, 441) Although it appalled history Professor Fritz Stern, who caught Rudd before he departed and told him “his actions in the chapel were akin to the takeover of Socialist meetings by Nazis in Weimar Germany.” (McCaughey, 441) As McCaughey claims, “This would not be the last time this analogy was invoked in the weeks that followed.” (McCaughey, 441)

SDS found what they believed was a legitimate excuse to protest the administration. SDS adopted the race issue and the gym as their own, and on April 12, the chapter’s steering committee voted to mount demonstrations throughout the spring in protest of the gym and the university’s connections with the Pentagon “war machine.” Then on April 17 at the SDS general assembly, nearly a hundred students voted in favor of spring demonstrations. April 23 was set as the day for the first day of the protest, which would begin with a noontime rally at the sundial in front of the Low Library. Rudd’s mastermind planning included two pre-protest steps to “assure a crowd at the sundial.” (McCaughey, 441) In a letter entitled “Letter to Uncle Grayson” on April 19 Rudd “listed three nonnegotiable demands that SDS had settled on: the cessation of gym construction; Columbia’s withdrawal from the IDA; and no disciplinary action against the Low Six.” (McCaughey, 441) Rudd also began negotiating with other student groups to embrace their issues of concern. According to McCaughey, this “marked a new departure for SAS, which until now had avoided involvement in any campus issues that were not directly related to the circumstances of black students.” (McCaughey, 441)

Although the Ten Days of Resistance was according to Sale “the largest student strike in the history of the country,” it was dwarfed by the sheer size of the Columbia strike, which dominated the press. The media made it seem as if other universities were copying Columbia. (Sale, 429) Over a million students participated in the nationwide strike on April 26. The next day there was a huge anti-war rally in Central park with eighty-seven thousand attending. Still the eight-day saga at Columbia unfolded in the media and stood out in the minds of many as the ultimate student protest. (Davis, 41)

April 23, 1968: Day One

On April 23, 1968 at noon the SDS, CCC, SAS and the university’s black students joined at the sundial in a protest that drew more than a thousand students. (Davis, 39) The SDS and SAS demonstrated at Columbia’s Low Library, but decided they needed to take a more active approach. The groups wanted to get into the Low Library to confront President Kirk, but counter-protesters, the anti-SDS–Students Columbia 1968  JPGfor a Free Campus–blocked the front entrance and the building’s rear entrance was locked. Mark Rudd tried to take charge, using a bullhorn to organize the students. Someone spontaneously suggested the group exit to the grounds of the proposed gymnasium. At the gym site, they were prevented from entering by the police and one student was arrested. As a result, SDS’s main grievance shifted to the student that had just been arrested. Rudd wanted to organize “a democratic decision-making event, proposing a future student strike.” (Boren, 174) However, when someone suggested regrouping again at the sundial the frustrated group moved again.

But instead of moving to the sundial they went to the lobby of Hamilton Hall. It was there that Rudd gained leadership control of the protest, suggesting that the protesters “take a hostage and occupy Hamilton Hall, the main classroom building of Columbia.” (Boren, 174) Their chosen hostage was the university’s interim Dean Henry Coleman, who had not left the building after 6 P.M. in the evening when the majority of the students and faculty had already left. The protesters held him in his office for 24 hours. Coleman was an agreeable hostage, partially because he was treated well by his captors: “We had more food than we could possibly eat.” (Davis, 40)

Although the protests had started off haphazardly, the students began organizing themselves. Rudd acted as the leader, and “appointed a steering committee.” (Boren, 174) The students began drafting their demands to the university, and organized a stand off with the authorities. They also set about posting all over the interior of the building Che Guevara posters and political slogans. (Boren, 174) As Meyers reports, the students “took their revolutionary style and dress, their beards and berets, from Che Guevara” and seemed, as “Dupee wrote, ‘to unite the politics of a guerrilla chieftain with the aesthetic flair of a costumer and an interior decorator.’ ” (Meyers, 2003) Hamilton Hall became a closed occupation and several dozen armed black activists were invited. (McCaughey, 443)

The students made six demands. The first two were the withdrawal from the IDA and a moratorium on building the gym. The others included the right to stage indoor demonstrations, the establishment of open hearings on student discipline, the dropping of charges against the student arrested at the first demonstration, and the granting of amnesty for past, present, and immediate future acts of the protesters. (Colin, 287)

April 24, 1968: Day Two

On April 24, the second day of the revolt the two factions broke ranks, the black students no longer wanting to collaborate with the white ones, and kicked them out of the building. The dynamic changed at midnight, when the SAS voted “that an ongoing occupation of Hamilton–now dubbed Malcolm X Liberation College–should be a blacks only project.” (McCaughey, 444) Although Rudd and SDS were shocked, they agreed to leave. The black students began fortifying the building against a possible police attack and they took over keeping Coleman hostage. (Boren, 174-175) The white students not knowing what to do, took up the suggestion by one of the black students to “Get your own building.” (McCaughey, 444) Rudd, SDSers and white student protesters chose to take over the Low Library, and particularly make their headquarters in President Grayson Kirk’s office. They easily took over the building almost uncontested in the early morning hours. Soon however, there were rumblings that the police were approaching, prompting Rudd and other SDS leaders to jump from the window. The remaining twenty-five students remained there Columbia 1968  JPGunchallenged for the next six days, with many others joining. Rudd wanted to occupy other buildings, but SDSers voted against it fearing it would scare away support, prompting Rudd to briefly resign his post.

The administration made its headquarters in the unoccupied part of Low Library, and although President Kirk wanted to call in the police and resolve the strike quickly, Provost Truman opposed such action. The administration feared the black students would incite residents in Harlem and was cautious in dealing with them. Support grew rapidly for the strike with students taking over other buildings on campus. Students opposed to the strike “began marching on the city campus” and tried to retake Hamilton Hall, without success. (Boren, 175) (McCaughey, 444)

April 25, 1968: Day Three

Day Three ended with graduate students taking over Fayweather Hall. However the most important event of the day was the faculty’s decision to try to resolve the strike. The faculty made their headquarters in Philosophy 301 where they convened an emergency meeting. Daniel Bell offered the most popular resolution, which called for the students to vacate the occupied buildings and a tripartite committee consisting of faculty, students, and the administration to decide on appropriate disciplinary action. He ended by claiming, “We believe that any differences have to be settled peacefully and we trust that police action will not be used to clear university buildings.” (McCaughey, 447) The SAS released Dean Coleman, and he joined the meeting that almost unanimously endorsed Bell’s proposal.

Kirk and Truman were not as supportive. President Kirk announced that classes were canceled until Monday, and Provost Truman told the faculty the police might need to be called in. In response the faculty created the Ad Hoc Faculty Group (AHFG), which would insert itself between the police and the students.

The students were for the most part were unwilling to work with the faculty. The university hoped to end the stand off by announcing that construction on the gymnasium would stop. But things remained at an impasse for four days. The students demanded amnesty for those involved in the revolt, while the administration resisted, fearful that amnesty would give students an incentive to stage another strike later. (Boren, 175)

The day also marked the occupation of another building, after students in Fayerweather considered abandoning their occupation, hard-line SDSers moved on to Mathematics Hall. Later it would be the scene of the most radical protests. National radical leaders came to the campus to endorse the plight of their local chapters. Black Power leaders Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee also came into to speak with the African-American students occupying Hamilton Hall.

April 26, 1968: Day Four

Faculty members were staying round the clock at Philosophy Hall, but in the early morning Provost Truman warned that the faculty must leave. The administration called in the police “to secure the campus,” and plainclothes policemen scuffled with faculty members at the building. (Boren, 175) Still President Kirk decided to withhold widespread police action, holding out the hope that the AHFG could work out a compromise. A break seemed in sight after a meeting with SDS leadership; Rudd agreed to meet on the next day, Saturday, with AHFG at Philosophy 301.

April 27, 1968: Day Five

AHFG was willing to offer Rudd full amnesty for the protesters at the meeting, but he exclaimed, “Bullshit,” and left. Day Five also saw the appearance of national SDS leaders including Tom Hayden, who held control over one building. (Boren, 175) Counter protesters tried to stop food from being delivered to those involved in the strike. Other strike supporters served as supply blockaders around the occupied buildings.

A routine set in on campus. With the exception of those in Hamilton, protesters moved in and out of the buildings easily. The protesters made themselves comfortable inside the five buildings they were occupying. As Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin write, “protesters slept in the president’s office, smoked his cigars, drank his sherry, and rifled through his files for politically incriminating documents…. Life inside the ‘liberated’ buildings was tense but passionate, sleepless yet amusing.” (Isserman, 229)

On day five even a marriage took place between two of the protesters, Richard Eagan and Andrea Boroff, who recalled, “We went out on the balcony, and the [university] chaplain proclaimed us children of a new age. There were flowers. There was cake. They took us out and marched us around campus with people banging on pots and pans. . . . Someone had keys to a faculty office and they gave us a honeymoon suite.” (Isserman, 229) The day ended with a rally: “The effective united front among all the variety of SDSers was neatly symbolized on Saturday night, when three SDS leaders addressed a crowd of antiwar marchers who collected outside the university gates: Mark Rudd, Ted Kaptchuk, and Tom Hayden, ” as Sale recounted. Sale, 437, 438

April 28, 1968: Day Six

The calm peace was about to turn violent. On Sunday the AHFG, consisting of sociology Professors Immmanuel Wallerstein, Daniel Bell, Allan Silver, history Professors David J. Rothman and Robert Fogelson and economics Professor Peter Kenen, drew up the “Bitter Pill Resolutions”:

  1. Cancellation of the gym construction.
  2. Columbia’s withdrawal from the IDA
  3. Establishment of the principle of collective punishment for the building occupiers
  4. The disavowal by the faculty of either party, students or administration, that refused to accept these resolutions. (McCaughey, 452)

The faculty involved with AHFG voted in favor of the resolutions, but when Kenen and Bell presented them to Provost Truman, he asked them not to present them at the joint faculty meeting or he would resign. At the meeting 400 members of the faculty from the university’s six schools decided to take a centrist position, neither repudiating their president nor abandoning the students. (McCaughey, 453) Meanwhile outside of Low, the power struggle between strikers and counter protesters increased, reaching a boiling point as the anti-protesters circled the building, blocking the delivery of food. The scene, featuring strikers precariously balanced on window ledges, was famously captured by Life magazine in an iconic photograph.

Columbia  1968 JPG

April 29, 1968: Day Seven

Day seven was make or break in the strike and became known as “the day of decision.” Desperate to resolve the matter, the administration told the police to prepare to remove the students in the next 24 hours if they would not agree to end the strike. The intervention would take place in the early morning hours. This detail was kept from AHFG. President Kirk was open to considering the “bitter pill” resolutions, but the university’s trustees wanted changes made. (McCaughey, 455) The protesters’ reaction to the resolutions showed that police action was inevitable. The SDS’s Strike Coordinating Committee refused to compromise without a guarantee of amnesty. Hamilton Hall protesters also refused to go along. Only the Majority Coalition accepted the resolutions, and after one last skirmish with Low’s food suppliers, they vacated their barrier to the building.

April 30, 1968: Day Eight

Eight days into the stand-off there was no solution in sight. The two groups could not meet in agreement, and university officials were concerned that the confrontation was only escalating. As Boren writes: “With major facilities of the campus held by student radicals, a growing national interest in the students’ revolt, and the threat that residents of Harlem might decide to intervene, President Kirk gave the police permission to remove the students on April 30, eight days into the occupation.” (Boren, 175) It was the only way to end the stalemate. The administration, the police, and Mayor Lindsay feared that despite an attempt to remove the students quietly, there would be a riot. It was this fear that had prolonged the strike for so long. One of the mayor’s advisers, Barry Gottehrer, who had watched the proceedings develop since early on in the strike, believed police action could “result in a massacre.” (McCaughey, 456) Mayor Lindsay looked for advice from Yale’s President Kingman Brewster, who told him, “the very future of the American university depended on punishing the strikers.” (McCaughey, 456) His advice helped persuade the mayor to allow the police to move in.

In making that decision, the university administration was giving up its right to control the situation, leaving the police in charge. Provost Truman claimed afterward: “It was like deciding to take an airplane ride and having to leave everything in the air to the pilot.” (McCaughey, 456) The police intended to clear each building one at a time. A thousand police officers were sent in to remove the approximately 1200 students. Police would enter unarmed and the removed students would be transported in vans to jail and booked. Many things could go wrong and ultimately they did. Outside, students and faculty could attempt to stop the police from entering, and inside the officers would be dealing with uncooperative students. It was the perfect recipe for an eventual riot.

At 2:00 A.M. police officers entered the campus to break up the revolt. James Kirkpatrick Davis says the “assault by officers” lasted “nearly to dawn.” (Davis, 41) The first building emptied out was Hamilton Hall; the black students holding the facility had agreed in advance to leave peaceably. Fifteen minutes later the eighty-six protesters were escorted out of the front entrance. The second building emptied was Low Library, at 2:25 A.M. When the police entered they met only passive resistance; ninety-three students were arrested. As one student recounted: “We all gave passive resistance and were dragged out–heads were banged, clothes were torn, some people were bleeding. Nothing serious though.” (McCaughey, 457) Avery Hall was next at 2:30 A.M. After students refused to leave the police broke down the door. Inside they encountered some resistance and both students and police officers received minor injuries; forty-two students were arrested.

With each building the resistance escalated, and it became more difficult to remove the protesters. Fayerweather Hall was the next building the police entered at 2:45 A.M. There the police encountered faculty and students who stood in their path in front of the doors. In the scuffle history Professor James Shenton received a head wound. The injuries continued to mount inside as students resisted the police; 286 students were forcibly removed. The last building was the Mathematics Hall, which was the most difficult to clear. It was there that the most radical students, SDSers, and Mark Rudd, were hold up. The lights were turned off, leaving the police in the dark. Students poured liquid soap all over the stairs to hinder the officers’ access. Students resisted removal and were taken out by force and injured in the process. They threw “bottles, flashlight batteries, furniture and anything else they could get their hands on at the oncoming police.” (Davis, 41) They could get violent, “biting, scratching, punching and even kicking police officers.” (Davis, 41) Stairwells and halls were barricaded with broken furniture, and even a janitor was thrown down a staircase to stop the police from advancing. (Davis, 41) In the end, 203 students were removed. In a little over an hour, all of the buildings were cleared of 711 strikers: 239 were from Columbia, 111 from Barnard, and the rest from other university/college campuses. Three faculty members were arrested. (Davis, 41)

Columbia 1968  JPG

The removal process was far more peaceful than many had feared with only 148 injuries, most of them minor. One police officer suffered a permanent back injury in the process. However, as observers, students, faculty, and families on the South Field were watching students being placed in the vans, a call went out from officers in the vans to other police on campus. It was then that the police came charging at the crowd, and riots and violence commenced. As McCaughey recounts: “A phalanx of police charged the spectators in the South Field, forcing them to retreat south and west until they were backed up against Ferris Booth Hall and Butler Library.” The gates were locked and the crowd could not escape the police. That was where the worst confrontations and violence occurred. As Peter Kenen observed: “Even those of us who were intellectually ready for police action were not emotionally ready for what we saw.” (McCaughey, 459) As Davis states, “the New York Police Department received the highest number of complaints ever received for a single police action. This was also the largest police action in the history of American Universities.” (Davis, 42) In the process, the police injured hundreds of students and faculty, and arrested hundreds more. The day would be remembered as the Battle of Morningside Heights. (Boren, 175)

The Aftermath

When the stand-off was finally over seven days later on April 30, 1968 Columbia’s president Grayson Kirk went into his office at 4:30 A.M. to survey the damage. Protesters had placed a sign on his window ledge that read “LIBERATED AREA. BE FREE TO JOIN US.” (Davis, 39) The state of the office surprised Kirk and the police officer who accompanied him. Kirk wondered, “My God, how could human beings do a thing like this?” The officer exclaimed, “The whole world is in these books. How could they do this to these books?” (Davis, 39) Provost Truman wondered: “Do you think they will know why we had to do this, to call in the police? Will they know what we went through before we decided?” (Davis, 39)

The university remained closed for the next week. Meanwhile, student radicals and SDS planned their next protests. For the rest of the term the students essentially remained on strike. (Boren, 175) On May 21 the students “placed a poster in Ferris Booth Hall which warned of ‘Showdown No. 2.’” (Davis, 42) They also distributed flyers that claimed: “Can an administration, which helps make weapons for Vietnam, steals people’s land and homes discipline anyone?” (Davis, 42) May 22, 1968 marked the second showdown, a much more violent revolt than the April strike. Students occupied Hamilton Hall again, and the more radical among the protesters set fires to parts of the campus. With this revolt, the administration wasted no time and called in the police.

Again, a thousand police officers were called to campus, and the confrontation turned violent. As Davis reports, the police “were in no mood to be pushed around by rowdy college students. Students threw bricks, rocks, and bottles at the lawmen. The police gave no quarter. It was a bloody, wild fight.” (Davis, 42) As with the last strike, the police forced back the crowds that had assembled to watch. Two hundred students were arrested. In a final revolt, that academic year in June students and faculty “dramatically marched out of Columbia’s official commencement ceremonies and held a counter-commencement exercise, officiated by former Sarah Lawrence College President Harold Taylor.” (Boren, 176)

Many of the liberal students at Columbia wanted to reform and restructure the university; many of the students’ demands were met to accomplish this. The university wanted to move on from the strikes, and in August President Kirk resigned, another marker of change that pleased the students. With the changes, SDS lost its less radical liberal advocates. (Boren, 176) Dick Greeman, an SDS veteran and one of the few Columbia faculty members that unconditionally supported the radicals wrote them: “To student rebels, allies must be sought in the black ghettos and in the ranks of labor, not on campus. It means that ‘a free university’ will only exist after we have won a ‘free society’ ” (Sale 440, 441) Many of the radicals left the university after that spring, while others were suspended for the most destructive actions, including Mark Rudd, who soon became the leader of the violent radical group, the Weather Underground.

The events at Columbia radicalized the student movement. The SDS’s slogan of “two, three, many Columbias” inspired radical students all across the country. As Boren explains, “The incident immediately ignited a number of student power demonstrations on campuses throughout the United States, fueled more by antiestablishment sentiments than by specific attainable goals.” (Boren, 176) Rudd later admitted that the stated reasons for the revolt at Columbia were just an excuse to challenge authority. “We just manufactured the issues…. The gym issue is bull. It doesn’t mean anything to anybody.” (Meyers, 2003) As Sale observes: “Conservative critics were right, for the wrong reasons, when they argued that if the university had given in on these demands the radicals would have found three others just as urgent; or, in the words of a famous Berkeley slogan, ‘The issue is not the issue.’ ” (Sale, 435)

Sources and Further Reading

Mark Edelman Boren, Student Resistance: A History of the Unruly Subject, (Routledge, 2001).

Joseph Conlin, The Troubles: A Jaundiced Glance Back at the Movement of the Sixties, (Watts, 1982).

James Kirkpatrick Davis, Assault on the Left: The FBI and the Sixties Antiwar Movement, (Greenwood, 1997).

Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin, America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s, (Oxford University Press, 2000).

Michael J. Lewis, “Activism & Architecture: A Tale of Two Cities,” New Criterion, Volume: 16. Issue: 10, June 1998.

Robert A. McCaughey, Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University in the City of New York, (Columbia University Press, 2003).

Jeffrey Meyers, “Lionel Trilling & the Crisis at Columbia,” New Criterion, Vol. 21, January 2003.

Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS, (Vintage Books, 1974).

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