A Brief History
On March 6, 1975, entranced Americans were glued to their television sets to watch the first mass public showing of the infamous “Zapruder Film” that depicted the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
The 8mm film is by far the most complete and definitive of the photographic records of the assassination, and it is in color! Obviously, the Secret Service was eager to get their hands on any film of the event and did so, having 3 prints made, returning one to Abraham Zapruder, a Russian-born Jewish tailor who had filmed the murder on his personal home movie camera.
Although the public did not see the moving pictures until a limited showing was held in Chicago in 1970 (on the appropriately named Underground News, a late-night show hosted by Chuck Collins), still photos of the film had been published in major magazines such as Life and Paris Match within weeks of the event. The nation, however, only got its first viewing on network television on March 6, 1975 on the late night show Good Night America hosted by Geraldo Rivera, along with Dick Gregory and Robert Groden. Many citizens were shocked and outraged that such a graphic and sad event was shown on national television and empathized with the Kennedy family about having the horrible death of their loved one paraded around for all to see.
The Zapruder Film is often referred to as the most analyzed film in history, and it almost assuredly is, likely followed by the Gimlin-Patterson bigfoot film. Studied by seemingly everyone under the sun, interpretations of what it shows also vary from “expert” to soi dissant “expert.” To some, the film backs up the government assertion that Lee Harvey Oswald shot the President from behind, as he hid in the Texas School Book Depository. To others, the fatal shot to Kennedy’s head that blew chunks of skull and brain onto the trunk of the convertible limousine “prove” that shot came from a second shooter who was positioned in the front.
Recreations on computers and using real guns, limousines and mannequins purport to support different conclusions. Until the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the JFK murder was in a league of its own as far as far conspiracy theories go, and the subject is still debated hotly to this day. The belief that the U.S. government is still, after so many years, keeping secret vital parts of the investigations of the assassinations of JFK, his brother Robert and Martin Luther King only fuels the conspiracy fires.
Questions for students: What do you think? Did Oswald act alone? If not, who else was involved and why? Russians? Cubans? The Mafia? Other U.S. politicians? All supposedly had the motive and means. Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Shenon, Philip. A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination. Picador, 2015.
Trask, Richard B. National Nightmare on Six Feet of Film: Mr. Zapruder’s Home Movie And the Murder of President Kennedy. Yeoman Press, 2005.
The featured image in this article, a picture by Walt Cisco, Dallas Morning News, of President Kennedy in the limousine in Dallas, Texas, on Main Street, minutes before the assassination, is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1924 and 1963 and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed. Unless its author has been dead for the required period, it is copyrighted in the countries or areas that do not apply the rule of the shorter term for US works, such as Canada (50 pma), Mainland China (50 pma, not Hong Kong or Macao), Germany (70 pma), Mexico (100 pma), Switzerland (70 pma), and other countries with individual treaties. See Commons:Hirtle chart for further explanation.
You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube: