In March 1964, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. interviewed his famously private friend Jacqueline Kennedy over the course of eight-and-a-half hours about her life, her husband's legacy, and their years in the White House. The 34-year-old former first lady had been widowed just four months when she spoke candidly with Schlesinger, who had also been a special assistant to President Kennedy. According to Mrs. Kennedy's wishes, her remarks to Schlesinger were kept sealed at the Kennedy Library.
In 2011, on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy presidency, Caroline Kennedy permitted the interviews to be shared with the world in an exhibit called "In Her Voice: Jacqueline Kennedy, The White House Years" at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. In addition to Jackie's words, photographs and other artifacts--like the Oleg Cassini dress that she wore to a state dinner in Paris and and an ancient Egyptian bracelet given to her by President Kennedy -- were on display. The interviews also published in a book and CD audio set, Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy.
Mrs. Kennedy's words reveal a bit of the woman who gave so much during her lifetime. As her brother-in-law Senator Ted Kennedy eulogized at her funeral, "During those four endless days in 1963, she held us together as a family and a country. In large part because of her, we could grieve and then go on. She lifted us up, and in the doubt and darkness, she gave her fellow citizens back their pride as Americans... She made a rare and noble contribution to the American spirit. But for us, most of all, she was a magnificent wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister, aunt, and friend. She graced our history."
To commemorate Jacqueline Kennedy's birthday on July 28th, read some passages from those introspective interviews in this Parade story.