What the Warren Commission avoided: the anti-racist Oswald

In his unpublished memoir, George de Mohrenschildt, an observant engineer and astute writer, talked about his friend Lee Oswald and his support for the civil rights movement

The inimitable George DeMohrenschildt

“Lee was indeed all wrapped up in his work, books, his ideas on equality of all people, especially of all races; it was strange indeed for a boy New Orleans and Texas poor white family, purely Anglo, to be so profoundly anti-racist. ‘Segregation in any form, racial, social or economic, is one of the most repulsive facts of American life,’ he often told me. ‘I would be willing any time to fight these fascistic segregationalists – and to die for my black brothers.”

DeMohrenschildt went on.

“[The] Warren Committee completely disregarded this unusual aspect of Lee’s character and eliminated my statement from the report,” De Mohrenschildt wrote.

The Warren Commission report unfairly presented Oswald as misfit without principles. Oswald was indisputably a believer in civil rights, when most Southern white males were not.

When Oswald was arrested in New Orleans in August 1963, he wound up in courtroom which was still segregated by races. Oswald sat in the black section of the court.

De Mohrenschildt concluded that Oswald was what he said he was:  “a patsy.” He did not believe his friend had killed the president but had been manipulated by others who had.

De Mohrenschildt committed suicide in March 1976 as congressional investigators began to seek his testimony about Oswald. It was a gothic end to a remarkable life.

The manuscript he left behind has been edited and annotated by the University Press of Kansas. You can buy a copy here.

 

 

9 comments

  1. curri says:

    Arch-segregationist US Senator Richard Russell served on the Warren Commission.

    • Richard Turnbull, J.D. says:

      You might search “Senator Richard Russell and the Warren Report,” since Russell’s dissent from the findings was the most vocal.

  2. drewelow says:

    all the more reason to believe that oswald woud not have had any animus towards jfk and rfk but rather would have been hopeful concerning the work and goals of the ‘kennedy movement’.thanks, jeff! is it possible that racists at high positions of power in the 3 letter agency spheres had contempt for jfk also over the race issue?

  3. B. Hall says:

    I doubt the Oswalds were “purely Anglo” as Oswald, his mother and his brother Robert all look like they could have been partially Jewish. Oswald’s political interests also would have been typical of the “purely Jewish” population of the time. He even said he was radicalized by reading about the Rosenberg spies.

    • John says:

      Just curious, what makes a person “look Jewish” ? I will leave your other comment about “typical” political interest alone.

    • david drewelow says:

      B Hall, Peter Savodnik has a wonderful article in The Forward(forward or theforward.com) oct 10, 2013, on the deep impression the jewish community in minsk made upon LHO. he mentions that the trigger for interest in the rosenbergs was meeting street protestors on their behalf and being impressed by the witness of jewish solidarity. there is no coverage treatment or mention of any jewish background for LHO. his interest, it seems, was based on a common interest in human rights and serving others. when expressed politically, this is often seen as ‘leftist’.

  4. Richard Turnbull, J.D. says:

    Disgraced ex-Fox New host Bill O’Reilly claimed he heard the gunshot from De Mohrenschildt’s weapon when the latter allegedly committed suicide, as they were supposedly scheduled for an interview thatsame day. The “suicide” took place just as the House Select Committee on Assassinations was to take De Mohrenschildt’s testimony.

  5. Bogman says:

    I can testify to another element of LHO’s personality that went unreported by the WR and MSM.

    I visited Oswald’s boarding house as part of the JFK Lancer conference last year. The lady at the boarding house was actually the owner’s daughter who lived with Oswald with her family as an 11-year-old girl.

    Without any prompting, she relayed the story how one afternoon her two younger brothers were outside fighting. She told Lee she should get out there and stop them. Lee volunteered instead.

    She heard Lee talk to the boys saying, ‘Brothers should love each other and not fight. And you should never ever hurt another human being.”

    The lady said the incident took place two weeks before the assassination.

  6. Kennedy63 says:

    Oswald is forever the enigma; the unknowable, elusive chameleon within whichever milieu one places him. One can believe whatever one wants about Oswald, because he is now owned by the ages; subject to interpretation; defined or maligned by the artistry and sophistry, or lack thereof, of the writers and editors; and, held at a distance by avid and casual readers alike. There is no redemption of Oswald from the assassination of JFK. We all are Oswald – the eternal patsies – submerged in many complex and sometimes nebulous associations and unresolved contradictions, but never attaining any real redemption. Oswald was a product of his times. Judging by his public statements, he knew how to present his “public persona”. Perhaps that is all he wanted us to know, tentatively. This obscurity reflects the subterranean world in which Lee Harvey Oswald lived, traveled, and died.

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