November 23, 2009
By Jessica Pritchard
November 22, 1963. America was in the midst of the Cold War. The Cuban Missile Crisis had just taken place the year before. And to top it all off, JFK received a fatal shot while driving through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Talk about a shot heard ‘round the world.
That tragic day commenced a whirlwind of conspiracy theories. While the government concluded Lee Harvey Oswald, a former Marine and Soviet Union supporter, carried out the shooting, not everyone bought it. Although no one doubts that Oswald shot and killed J. D. Tippit, a Dallas police officer, on the same day as the Dealey Plaza shootings, was he also responsible for JFK’s murder? And what about Jack Ruby, the nightclub owner who took the law into his own hands by killing Oswald on November 24, 1963?
Needless to say, the 48-hours surrounding JFK’s assassination is truly a web of murder and mystery. The Katzenbach’s Memo, written by Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to JFK’s assistant Bill Moyers on November 25, 1963, only compounds this web: “The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large, and that evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial.”
We’ll leave hypothesizing and theorizing up to you and simply lay out the educational resources needed to draw your own conclusions.
The Mary Ferrell Foundation, whose motto is Preserving the Legacy, has created an accessible historical forum for the new generation of critical thinkers that is absolutely rich with resources. The site features an extensive digital archive that includes documents, multimedia, books, essays, journals, projects, and walkthroughs (which contain thematically linked documents), all of which center on JFK. The site also contains various Starting Points, which guide you through the available resources: Investigations, Evidence, Events & Stories, Theories & Perspectives, People, Organizations and the Kennedy Presidency.
After Congress ordered the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act in 1992, the National Archives collected and compiled all material linked to the assassination into one collection, featuring “five million pages of assassination-related records, photographs, motion pictures, sound recordings, and artifacts.” Begin your researching journey with the site’s reference system that allows you to search through all of the collection’s documents.
American Presidents features profiles on all of the American presidents, including JFK, complete with individual biographies, key events, and other reference materials. You can also visit Arlington National Cemetery’s profile on the president, which contains a contextual backdrop for the assassination.
History Matters, a web site dedicated to “shed[ding] needed light on the darker aspects of post-World War II American politics, and in particular the tumultuous assassinations of the 1960s,” has a separate page dedicated to the JFK Assassination, featuring, among many things, government reports, analyses of evidence, essays, audio recordings, and a list of recommended books.
For those interested in the conspiracy theory aspect of Kennedy’s Assassination, John McAdams, an assistant professor of political science at Marquette University, created a site with resources almost exclusively intended for “debunking the mass of misinformation and disinformation surrounding the murder of JFK.”
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum contains various historical resources, as well as information on their education and public programs. Students can delve into the site’s resources to learn more about the life of JFK; expand their historical familiarity with the era; explore the president’s political endeavors; test their knowledge through thematic activities; and even apply this knowledge by entering the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage essay contest. There are a comparable amount of resources available to teachers as well: “Inspired by John F. Kennedy’s approach to learning, we [the site] encourage teachers and their students to engage in a dynamic, rigorous, and reflective study of history and politics.” Teachers can learn more about school visits and special school programs; explore activities and resources applicable to their curriculum; participate in professional development seminars; peruse New Frontiers, A Newsletter for Educators; and nominate their students for the Make a Difference Award.
Read-Write-Think offers countless classroom activities from virtually any historical era, including JFK’s assassination. Teachers can use one of the site’s two lessons: Exploring and Sharing Family Stories (grades 6-8) and Creating Family Timelines (grades 3-5).