Assassination and Commemoration: JFK. Dallas, and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

By Erekson, Keith A. | The Journal of Southern History, November 2014 | Go to article overview

Assassination and Commemoration: JFK. Dallas, and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza


Erekson, Keith A., The Journal of Southern History


Assassination and Commemoration: JFK. Dallas, and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. By Stephen Fagin. Foreword by Conover Hunt. Preface by Edward T. Linenthal. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013. Pp. [xxx], 238. $29.95, ISBN 978-0-8061-4358-3.)

It has now been more than fifty years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Assassination and Commemoration: JFK. Dallas, and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza traces the effort, equally long, to come to terms with the artifacts and meaning of that day--the most demanding artifact being the former Texas School Book Depository building, on the sixth floor of which were discovered three cartridge cases from a bolt-action Mannlicher-Carcano rifle that became the basis for the charges against employee Lee Harvey Oswald. The book began as the master's thesis of Stephen Fagin, then director of the Oral History Project at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. Fagin now serves as the museum's associate curator, and the book provides an insider's view of the museum's lengthy and complicated history.

The book's five chapters describe the old building as a site sequentially of tragedy, shame, reflection, conflict, and history. The opening chapter clearly recounts the events of November 22, 1963, and places them within the context of Dallas political and social history. It also chronicles three of the earliest responses to the tragedy--two plaques at Dealey Plaza giving an outline of the events, an open-walled cenotaph bearing only Kennedy's name carved into granite, and a failed attempt by a Nashville, Tennessee, music promoter to create a museum in the building. As the years passed, shame and reflection and no little public conflict led to the purchase of the old depository building and its transformation, first, into county office space with a vacant sixth floor and, eventually, into the Sixth Floor Museum, which opened in 1989. …

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