Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Who Killed JFK?

Posted: November 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

jfkblog2Image © Bowling Green State University

At 12.30pm on Friday 22 November 1963, three shots rang out over Dealey Plaza Park in Dallas. Lee Harvey Oswald had fired three 6.5mm Carcano bullets from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository, two of which struck President John F. Kennedy. Thirty minutes later JFK was dead.

That’s the official story. The Warren Commission set up to investigate President Kennedy’s death concluded that Oswald had acted alone. Despite this, 59% of Americans today believe Oswald had help. In the years between 1966 and 2003, up to 80% believed there was a cover up. “Who killed JFK?” has been the biggest question of the past fifty years.

 jfkblog5lafreepressImage © Bowling Green State University

Drawing on underground publications in Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975, I have looked into some of the more interesting conspiracy theories as to who killed Kennedy.

Conspiracy Theory #1: The CIA

A 1978 special edition of the Los Angeles Free Press alleged that the CIA framed Oswald months before the killing. According to the article’s author Mark Lane, a man dubbed the “father of JFK assassination conspiracy theories,” the CIA secretly created false ties between Oswald and the KGB, as well as orchestrating a fake escape plan to Cuba.

 jfkblog1Image © Bowling Green State University

Conspiracy Theory #2: John Connally, Governor of Texas

According to the Los Angeles Free Press, White House aide Jerry Bruno considered two locations for the President’s luncheon speech: the Women’s Building and the Trade Mart. The former came with a socially diverse audience, and was supported by Texas Senator Yarborough. The latter was more exclusive, ensuring only the “Fat Cats” could attend, and was supported by Governor Connally. Despite the Trade Mart posing a higher security risk, Connally got his way. Kennedy was assassinated en route to the Trade Mart luncheon.

 jfkblog3Image © Bowling Green State University

Conspiracy Theory #3: Fidel Castro

A 1975 edition of the Ann Arbor Sun alleges that Fidel Castro was behind the assassination: “Washington Columnist Marianne Means revealed last month that [President] Johnson… doubted Oswald had acted alone. He suggested Oswald may have been acting under orders of Fidel Castro in retaliation for CIA plots to assassinate the Cuban premiere.”

 jfkblog4Image © Bowling Green State University

Conspiracy Theory #4: John F. Kennedy

It’s the most bizarre theory yet. A 1964 edition of the satirical magazine The Realist quotes a man who contended that Kennedy organised the assassination himself. Why? ““Medical reports had indicated that he had less than 90 days to live due to an intensified malign spinal cancer.” “Why not die a martyr?” asks The Realist.

Similar conspiracy theories abound. The history of these theories charts the lingering shock waves of an event which so shattered the optimism of post-war America that it still haunts the nation today. Perhaps what is most unbelievable about JFK’s death is not the conspiracy theories, but the event itself. As Norman Mailer poignantly wrote in Oswald’s Tale:

It is virtually not assimilable to our reason that a small lonely man felled a giant in the midst of his limousines, his legions, his throng, and his security. If such a non-entity destroyed the leader of the most powerful nation on earth, then a world of disproportion engulfs us, and we live in a universe that is absurd.

You can read more underground press publications in Adam Matthew’s Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975. This was originally published on Adam Matthew’s Editor’s Choice blog.


The Belle of the Reservation

Posted: August 22, 2013 in Uncategorized


Originally published on Adam Matthew’s Editor’s Choice blog.

Gi-aum-e Hon-o-me-tah looks cosy wrapped up in her Kiowa blanket. Her cheeks are redder than her lips thanks to traditional face paint, and her eyes stare calmly into yours. Elbridge A. Burbank had a talent for capturing eyes; in his portraits of elderly chiefs he conveys solemnness and defiance, but with Gi-aum-e the impression is altogether different. Young and beautiful, her eyes look to the future, not the past.

Gi-aum-e was the niece of Haw-gone (Silver Horn), a famed Kiowa artist, and the daughter of a Kiowa chief. In his memoir (Among the Indians, 1944) Burbank describes her as an intelligent girl with good English who was considered “the belle of the reservation.” She was sixteen when Burbank painted her in the 1890s, and although she appears calm in her portrait she didn’t speak a word during the first week of posing out of pure bashfulness. “When she finally did become acquainted, she became quite talkative,” Burbank wrote.

When the officers at Fort Sill held a dance Burbank invited Gi-aum-e and her friend Ton-had-dle. During the dance he caught them laughing together in a corner of the room: “They explained naively that they were laughing because they thought it so funny for one girl to dance with so many different men. They also felt that this was very improper.”

Burbank tells another amusing story (Famous War Chiefs I Have Known and Painted, 1910) about when his lay figure – an artist’s mannequin – arrived from Chicago. The Kiowa men would “take it from the pedestal and dance around the room with it,” while the two girls would dress it in Kiowa clothes, “paint the face and place it on a chair before a window and then go outside and look up and laugh at it.”

Burbank became good friends with Gi-aum-e and he corresponded with her for several years after leaving the reservation. Their correspondence ended abruptly however, when she failed to reply to one his letters. When he next returned to Fort Sill he was shocked to learn that she had died suddenly. His memoir offers no cause of death.

Reflecting on the finished portrait, which features in our upcoming resource American Indian Histories and Cultures, Burbank wrote: “I never painted a more beautiful picture in my life.” Viewed from a distance of well over a hundred years, Gi-aum-e is still the belle of the reservation.

Image © The Newberry Library, Chicago. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.