“JFK: One Day In America,” on Disney+, transports the viewer back in time to one of the most pivotal and tragic moments in American history. Through a combination of rare archival footage, insightful interviews, and comprehensive description of events, this documentary offers a vivid portrayal of the step-by-step events that unfolded on November 22, 1963.
Guest Writer: Benjamin Kebles
The Emmy Award-winning, critically acclaimed franchise One Day In America returns with its second installment, “JFK: One Day In America.” This November marks the 60th anniversary of former President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
From Emmy Award-winning 72 Films and David Glover along with Academy Award-winning filmmakers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin, the three-part docu-series produces a comprehensive account of that tragic moment in American history and the ripples that followed. Made in official collaboration with the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, the docu-series weaves archival footage, some colorized for the first time, with key testimony from the last surviving witnesses to create an immersive, minute-by-minute examination of that pivotal day that forever changed history.
The documentary opens with Kennedy’s election in 1960 – but notes how his first term wasn’t seen through to the end, as he was assassinated only 3 years in. Clint Hill, one of the Secret Service agents assigned to Kennedy’s family, now at the age of 91, walks the audience through his experience and close relationship with the Kennedy family.
The day before the assassination, President Kennedy lands in San Antonio, Texas to campaign with his wife, Jackie Kennedy. Paul Landis, another former Secret Service agent assigned to the Kennedy family, notes how popular Mrs. Kennedy was with crowds. He describes in detail how her presence on the campaign trail was monumental due to her popularity with the American people. The couple were described as a “movie star” duo. The docu-series quickly jumps to the infamous day, but does an amble job of providing context of the strong relationship between Hill, Landis and the Kennedy Family in the months and days leading up to Nov. 22.
12:30pm, Nov. 22, 1963 – after landing in Dallas, Texas earlier that morning, President Kennedy and his motorcade arrive in Dealey Plaza. Here the president is gunned down and murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald. Throughout the rest of the show, the audience gets to look at the events following the assassination. From JFK being rushed to the hospital, the swearing in of his successor President Johnson, the man-hunt for Lee Harvey Oswald, Lee Harvey Oswald’s death, and the funeral for the president, all through the stories of eye witness testimony.
Three deep dive episodes
Episode One: Assassination
President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, travel to Texas on the campaign trail, along with a team of secret service agents. During a motorcade in downtown Dallas, President Kennedy is brutally shot in broad daylight. A secret service agent narrowly misses the fatal bullet, and JFK tragically dies at Parkland Hospital beside a grieving Jackie Kennedy. America changes forever.
Episode Two: Manhunt
The race is on to track down JFK’s killer. But before he is arrested, the assassin kills again. Meanwhile, Jackie Kennedy boards Air Force One to return JFK’s body to Washington. Still wearing her bloodstained dress, she witnesses LBJ being sworn in as president. As the net closes in around suspected killer Lee Harvey Oswald, his friends and family face interrogation.
Episode Three: Revenge
President Kennedy’s body arrives back in Washington, and a grieving Jackie Kennedy leads the funeral march to honor him. In Dallas, Lee Harvey Oswald is charged with JFK’s murder. But the world is shocked again when Oswald himself is shot dead while still in police custody by nightclub owner Jack Ruby. With Oswald dead, there is no reckoning and America will never be the same.
Author’s historical understanding expanded
I have always been a fan of learning history. The events that unfolded on Nov. 22, 1963 were not news to me in 2023. I was already well acquainted with this day, yet the first-hand eye witness accounts of some of the last surviving members of this historic day brought new perspective to this tragedy for me.
I think that often times, people read about old events in textbooks, see black and white movies and think the things they read about and see happened so long ago. They believe that these events aren’t near to them, or applicable in anyway to their lives. But, when one can witness these events in restored color, and hear from witnesses with the same relative age as one’s grandparents, it brings these events to the foreground – into “real life.”
What new information is brought forth?
By far, the element that gave this documentary its uniqueness was the testimonies of the last surviving eye witness secret service men. These men, who were right by the President when he died, told of the events that unfolded from their point of view. Other eye witness accounts included the fascinating perspective of the man who drove Lee Harvey Oswald to work everyday, including the day of the assassination. “JFK: One Day In America” also includes never before scene footage from the day. For those who have seen “every angle,” this doc-series provides new insight.
In my opinion, the presentation of the timeline of the events that took place gave the doc-series its edge. The audience is placed into history, hour-by-hour during the events that took place on November 22, 1963. The storytelling and interviews were very extremely insightful, and the delivery of the first hand accounts was communicated well.
The docu-series speed of the portrayal of the events gives the audience time to soak in the information and stay tracked with the storyline, while simultaneously providing the audience this anxious feeling of anticipating the tragedy to come. For history cannot be changed, but we can look back and learn to make sure we never repeat mistakes.
You too can learn about this eventful day on Disney+ with “JFK: One Day In America,” which fully debuts as of Nov. 5, 2023.
As Disney+ debuts an acclaimed docu-series, the Walt Disney Company is also pushing back a Disney100 milestone – the retelling of the story that started it all. 2024’s “Snow White” is now 2025’s story to tell. Learn more about this majorly delayed film.