I spent my childhood in Dallas during the 1950s. You may remember that Dallas was a center of "conservative" ideas in those days . . .
The city was, indeed, headquarters to many right-wing organizations. Dallas was home to the Committee of American Freedom Rallies, the Committee for the Retention of the Poll Tax, and the Committee to Impeach Earl Warren. The Dallas Freedom Forum advocated reducing the Soviet Union "to a mass of glass for a thousand years." Eager to distinguish his group from its competitors, the chairman of the National Indignation Convention pointed with contempt to "the liberal taint of the John Birch Society." Read the rest of this book review.
Many felt that the super-heated atmosphere of ultra-right Dallas might endanger President Kennedy on his trip to the city in November in 1963. And these fears might be one reason why there was so much disbelief (or at least skepticism) in some quarters when the assassin turned out to be a communist sympathizer rather than a John Bircher. (It does seem rather convenient.)
I was just a few blocks away from Dealey Plaza, in the crowd of spectators who turned out to see the President pass by. Unfortunately, I don't remember much about what was happening around me at the time, but it all seemed festive, not threatening. By good fortune, I'd been brought up among progressives, and as a teenager, didn't really give much thought the conservative climate in Dallas.
Although I'm a political junkie today, Dallas 1963 stayed mostly out of mind until Charlottesville. The ultra-right factions there were invaders, not residents--but they brought with them both a new revelation and a deep reminder about the extent and intensity of racism in America.
When I looked for a refresher on Dallas's far-right history, I discovered that the past is not so far away as we might hope. If you're concerned about current events, read this: