Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Photo from Dallas 1963

There's that lesser known photo from Dallas,
1963. Johnson, crowned by a cowboy hat,
almost smothers the foreground. He's
come down the steps of Air Force One
and hit the tarmac bellowing, bellicose.
Citizen Canine. The camera seized

his right arm as it rose in salute
to Texans, so it seems like a fascist
salute. Kennedy, bad back and all,
is several steps above him but
upstaged. Johnson has put his boot
on the throat of protocol. The President has
reached across his body to grab

Johnson's shoulder and hold him
back. It's hopeless.  Johnson and time
have become mad bulls. Kennedy's
sad face suggests surrender. Between
the men, Mrs. Kennedy seems to sink
beneath the surface of something.

The immensity of the suited males
becomes grotesque and arid--
menacing, but not like the slobbering
dogs of Birmingham. Mrs. Kennedy
looks politely terrified, glassy-eyed,
impaired by celebrity, sick to death
of the spectacle of power. In its own
way, the photograph is obscene.


hans ostrom 2016
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