Black Dallas residents remember JFK assassination ahead of 50th - New York News

Black Dallas residents remember JFK assassination ahead of 50th anniversary

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Next week, the eyes of the world will be on Dallas as they remember the 50th anniversary of the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy.

Thursday, African-Americans in Dallas who lived through that tragic moment gathered to share their painful recollections of how hope for a better life was deferred Nov. 22, 1963.

Eva McMillian, a Dallas civil rights pioneer, along with others from black Dallas' past, remembered JFK and all that died with him that day as part of a panel discussion at Bishop Arts Theatre Center.

"Went home and was sleeping fitfully when the phone rang, and it was she calling, my mother-in-law," said McMillian. "She said, ‘They killed him! They killed him! They killed him!' She was screaming so desperately."

"During that time, Texas was a one-party state: everybody belonged to the Democratic Party," said Joe Atkins, who brought on the lawsuit that led to desegregation of what is now the University of North Texas.

"He was on a peace mission," said Atkins. That mission: to bring divided conservative and liberal Democrats together.

While blacks in Dallas gave Kennedy more than 90 percent of their vote in 1960, Atkins says that Dallas was very anti-Kennedy.

Julia Jordan saw Kennedy's motorcade pass at Harwood and Main streets. She taught at BF Darrell School and had been invited to a luncheon with Kennedy.

As soon as the motorcade passed, she raced home to south Dallas, dropped her kids off and was getting ready to leave when the phone rang with assassination news.

"I said, ‘I don't believe it,'" said Jordan. "It was just too unreal. I had just seen the man about just a few minutes before."

Along the parade route of promise, people grieved. Others gathered outside Parkland Hospital.

Dr. Harry Robinson, then a student at Southern University, recalled a professor telling his class, "It was no need of our getting all emotional…we need to get smart. Now that Kennedy was gone, it was like our hope had been dashed."

The Rev. Peter Johnson was just 19 years old 50 years ago, and also a Southern University student. He was classmates with now-Georgia Congressman John Lewis,

The pair and others penned a song the day of the assassination to Jacqueline Kennedy

"Dear Mrs. Kennedy, we heard about your tragedy," said Johnson. "Freedom is coming and it won't be long. Tell Robert Kennedy he's still in his prime for the presidency...he's still got time. Freedom is coming and it won't be long."

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