JFK holds complex place in black history

tags: African American history, JFK, Black History, Kennedys




Not that many years ago, three portraits hung in thousands of African-American homes, a visual tribute to men who had helped black people navigate the long journey to equality.

There was Jesus, who represented unconditional hope, strength and love. There was Martin Luther King Jr., who personified the moral crusade that ended legal segregation. And then there was President John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy's inclusion may seem puzzling, considering that his civil rights legacy has undergone substantial reassessment since his Nov. 22, 1963, assassination. But a look at why so many black people revered him then — and why younger generations have largely forgotten his civil rights work — shows that even 50 years later, Kennedy holds an important but complicated place in black history.

"We're still trying to figure it out," says John Mack, a longtime civil rights activist who was fighting segregation in Atlanta when Kennedy was elected president in 1960.

Mack says that we can only speculate on what Kennedy might have done for civil rights had he not been killed.

"It's a question we're wrestling with and cannot answer," Mack says....



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