JFK Library Presents New Exhibit on a 1962 State Dinner

For Immediate Release
April 24, 2018
Media Contact: Matt Porter (978) 764-4255

JFK Library Presents New Exhibit on a 1962 State Dinner 
Hosted by President and Mrs. Kennedy  

- Exhibit opens Friday, April 27 and runs through April 2019 -

BOSTON, MA: The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum today announces the opening of a special display highlighting the White House state dinner honoring Ivory Coast President Félix Houphouët-Boigny, hosted by President and Mrs. Kennedy on May 22, 1962. The Ivory Coast was one of 15 African countries that became independent during the summer and fall of 1960. The exhibit opens to the public on Friday, April 27 and will run through April 2019.

Download Press Kit here.

From the earliest moments of his Presidency, with more than 150 artists, writers, and poets invited to his inauguration, John F. Kennedy signaled that the arts would hold a central place in his administration. Over the next three years, White House events and receptions hosted by President and Mrs. Kennedy celebrated and showcased the highest American cultural achievements. Jacqueline Kennedy planned these events with meticulous attention to detail in creating the guest lists, menus, flower arrangements, table settings, seating arrangements, and entertainment.  

“These items—drawn mostly from the Kennedy Library’s collections—reveal all the pomp and ceremony of a state event—the glitter of Jacqueline Kennedy’s dress, the sparkle of the crystal—the music by Aaron Copland, the entertainment all carefully chosen—all these things speak to the beauty and formality of these age-old traditions,” said Stacey Bredhoff, Museum Curator. “This particular event is notable, as it demonstrates how President Kennedy was reaching out to the leader of a newly independent African nation.”

President Kennedy was a strong supporter of African nationalism and independence on both moral and strategic grounds. Within the context of the Cold War, he believed that the newly independent nations could have an impact on the struggle between the western democracies and the Soviet bloc. He also believed that the African movements for freedom and independence were inspired by the same universal aspirations that engendered our own American revolution. The Ivory Coast was one of the most staunchly anti-communist countries among the newly independent African states and was unfailingly loyal to the West. “If we extend the hand of friendship,” JFK said, “then the course of African revolution... will be towards democracy and freedom and not towards communism.” President Kennedy’s invitation to President Houphouët-Boigny was a gesture of friendship to the leader of an emerging African democracy.

Included in the display are:

  • Dinner menu with President Kennedy’s notes scribbled as he prepared his toast remarks;
  • Silver-spangled evening gown worn by Jacqueline Kennedy to the state dinner, designed by Oleg Cassini;
  • Table setting used at the State Dinner;
  • Ebony Magazine, featuring a cover photograph of the American and Ivorian First Ladies;
  • Program for “Billy the Kid,” performed by the American Ballet Theatre in the East Room following dinner;
  • Letter from Aaron Copland, composer of “Billy the Kid,” accepting the invitation to the State Dinner; and
  • Seating chart from the dinner.

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The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is one of 14 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and is supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. Located on Columbia Point in Dorchester, the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with the exceptions of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Parking is free. There is free shuttle-service from the JFK/UMass T Stop on the Red Line. The Museum is fully handicapped accessible. For more information, call (866) JFK-1960 or access www.jfklibrary.org on the Internet.

General admission to the Museum at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library is $14.00. Admission for seniors over the age of 62 and college students with appropriate identification is $12.00, and for children ages 13-17, $10.00. Children ages 12 and under are admitted for free.