On November 22, 1963, President John Kennedy was felled by Lee Harvey Oswald as his motorcade drove through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas. Most Americans who were alive during that time still remember exactly where they were when they learned of this tragic event. Since the 59th anniversary of President Kennedy’s death just occurred, I decided to try to locate the first congressional reactions to the assassination in the Congressional Record. Since I knew the date, I decided to browse the Congressional Record by date rather than perform a keyword search. From the Congress.gov homepage, I clicked on “Congressional Record” at the top. Under “find an issue of the record,” I used the calendar to choose November 22, 1963. I took a look at the Daily Digest, a section of the Congressional Record that provides a summary of the daily proceedings, but did not find much that was relevant. However, when I took a look at the Daily Digest for November 25, 1963, which was the Monday following the assassination, I found these tributes to President Kennedy from Senators Mansfield and Dirksen.
If you are interested in starting your search with a keyword, as opposed to a date, here is how you can search for and find congressional reactions to historic moments in American history. From the Congress.gov global search box drop-down menu, choose “Congressional Record.” Enter your search terms. You can put the terms in quotation marks to search for them as an exact phrase. On the results screen, click “show keywords in context” at the top left, so you can see snippets of where your search terms appear underneath each result. This will spare you the time of clicking on each individual result. You may also want to use the sort feature at the top to sort by date or the filter menu on the left to narrow down your results to a particular Congress.
The Bound Congressional Record on Congress.gov now provides coverage dating back to the 52nd Congress (1891 – 1893). Have you found any interesting congressional reactions to significant moments in American history? Let us know in the comments.
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