Dallas's Ambivalent Commemoration of a Decisive Day

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Mark Lamster examines Dallas's efforts to commemorate the tragedy. A new memorial is the latest example of the city's "ambivalent response to the events of November 1963."

"It’s been 50 years, and Dallas still hasn’t figured out an appropriate way to memorialize John F. Kennedy, even as the tragedy of his murder has served as the impetus for the city’s reinvention," observes Lamster. A derivative memorial designed by Philip Johnson and a new plaque set to be unveiled tomorrow in Dealey Plaza are the most notable examples of the city's commemorative efforts.

Though Dallas has done much to change its image from the “city of hate” label that was attached in the assassination's aftermath, it has struggled to mark the events of the day that so altered the history of the city and the country. 

"With a bit of the ambition on which Dallas so prides itself, this killing field might have been remade into a true public amenity, a site more befitting the dignity of Kennedy and the site where John Neely Bryan first set up the trading post that would grow into a metropolis," laments Lamster. "Instead we have a plaque."

Full Story: Architecture commentary: Markers of JFK tragedy fail to impress

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