“And now on to Chicago”..the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy


Nineteen sixty-eight was a traumatic year in American Politics. Battered by dissent over the Vietnam War, incumbent Lyndon Johnson withdrew from the Presidential race in late March. His surprise action came only two weeks after Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY), brother of the assassinated President John F. Kennedy, joined maverick Gene McCarthy in challenging Johnson for the Presidential nomination. April 4 Martin Luther King was killed and riots ensued nationwide.

Defeated by McCarthy in Oregon, Kennedy desperately needed to win the California Presidential Primary.June 5, 1968 he did. His victory speech at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel ended with the phrase: “And now, on to Chicago…” Leaving the building through the hotel’s kitchen area, Kennedy was accosted by a Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan, who was reputedly angry with Kennedy because of the Senator’s support of Israel. Firing at Kennedy, he felled the Senator with three shots, including one to the head, and also hit other bystanders with gunfire. The Senator died the next day. His funeral was an emotional event that began at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and culminated in Arlington Cemetery’s only evening burial. Vice President Hubert Humphrey ultimately received his party’s nomination at the infamous Chicago Democratic Convention, and was defeated in November by Republican Richard Nixon.

Sirhan Sirhan was convicted of Kennedy’s death during a trial that ran from January-April 1969. He remains in prison. The belief that Kennedy’s death was a conspiracy, and/or that more than one person was involved in the shooting, persist.

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s) 

STANDARD 2: How the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics.

Standard 2C: The student understands the foreign and domestic consequences of U.S. involvement in Vietnam  

7-12: Assess the Vietnam policy of the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations and the shifts of public opinion about the war. [Analyze multiple causation]

Era 10: Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)

STANDARD 1Recent developments in foreign policy and domestic politics.

Standard 1A: The student understands domestic politics from Nixon to Carter. 

5-12: Evaluate the effectiveness of the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations in addressing social and environmental issues. [Assess the importance of the individual in history]   

Primary Resources

  1. TITLE: RFK's Speech on the Death of Martin Luther King (text and audio clip)
    DATE: Indianapolis, April 4, 1968
    NOTES: This speech, just two months before his own assassination, is considered one of the finest moments in RFK’s career. In it Kennedy, who hears the news as he arrives for a campaign stop, announces King’s death to an unsuspecting crowd of followers. This clip also gives students an opportunity to hear the senator speak
    The John F. Kennedy Library, Boston Massachusetts.
    REPOSITORY: John F. Kennedy Library, Boston Massachusetts

  2. TITLE: RFK Seconds After the Shooting
    DATE: June 5, 1968
    NOTES: Probably the most famous photo of the RFK Assassination. This Time-Life photo shows the busboy who comforted the Senator.
    SOURCE: The RFK Assassination Web site 
    REPOSITORY: Time-Life

  3. TITLE: Diagram of the Ambassador Hotel Kitchen Area
    DATE: N/A
    SOURCE The RFK Assassination Web site 
    REPOSITORY: Los Angeles Police Department

  4. TITLE: Md. Gov. Agnew on Kennedy's Shooting & Death
    DATES: June 5, 1968, June 6, 1968
    SOURCE: Executive Records, Governor Spiro T. Agnew, 1967-1969, Vol 83, Page 840-841
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  5. TITLE:  Edward Kennedy's Eulogy of Robert Kennedy (text and audio)
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  St. Patrick’s Cathedral, June 8, 1968
    SOURCE:  The American Experience, “The Kennedys”, PBS, Alternative: Text Excerpt of Edward Kennedy Eulogy
    REPOSITORY: John F. Kennedy Library 

  6. TITLE:  Bruce Morton Radio Broadcast on RFK's Funeral (audio)
    SOURCE:  CBS Radio News
    REPOSITORY:  Radio Days Broadcast Journalism and Historical Events 

  7. TITLE: RFK Must Die! (Sirhan Sirhan Notebook)
    DATE: May 18, 1968
    NOTES: This chilling page from Sirhan Sirhan’s notebook reveals his obsession with killing Kennedy
    SOURCE: The RFK Assassination Web site
    REPOSITORY: California State Archives Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Investigation Records

  8. TITLE:  Kranz Report on the RFK Assassination, Kranz part B, Kranz part C
    NOTES: Was there a second gunman in the RFK Assassination? Or problems with the quality of police work? The Los Angeles Police department commissioned Thomas Kranz to investigate.
    SOURCE:  United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation
    REPOSITORY: Freedom of Information/Privacy Act website

  9. TITLE: Robert F. Kennedy Assassination (Summary)
    SOURCE: Freedom of Information Act
    REPOSITORY: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Additional Media Resources

RFK 40 Years Later. NBC News video and images associated with Robert Kennedy's assassination with a followup on the people and places associated with the event.

“People Here are Dismayed.” Baltimore Sun June 6, 1968
NOTES: Average Maryland residents responded to Kennedy’s shooting. Also coverage from June 6-9th in same publication. Located at Enoch Pratt and other Maryland County and major college libraries.

"Throngs Pay Final Homage Along Track." Baltimore Sun June 9. 1968.
Coverage of the Kennedy funeral train.

Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Investigation   1998
NOTES: A review of the items on the site that provides details of the breadth of information covered in the investigation.   California State Archives Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Investigation Records

Tape Intervew Abstracts. 1968 California State Archives, RFK Assassination Investigation Records. Appendix E: List of Audio Tapes.
NOTES: A review of these tape abstracts provides an idea of the type of information provided to witnesses to the event, or connected to it.

List of Exhibits from the Sirhan Sirhan Trial Jan-April 1969. California State Archives Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Investigation Records Appendix H: List and Description of Trial Exhibits 1968 Published online 1998
NOTES: A list of items involved in the trial of Kennedy’s Assassin.

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Library RFK Assassination File
The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Archives Collection: Largest archive of RFK Assassination Materials. Contact: University of Massachusetts 
Dartmouth Library 285 Old Westport Rd. North Dartmouth, MA 02747-2300
Phone: 508-999-8686 Contact: JFarrar@umassd.edu

Vanderbilt Broadcast Archives
A website which offers access to historic TV broadcasts. Tapes require a small fee, but abstracts indicating key elements of the broadcast, who, when, reporter etc. are free. Tapes begin August, 1968. Free registration for access. Search Robert F. Kennedy for references, plus broadcasts in January 1969-April for the Sirhan Sirhan Trial.

Additional Instructional Resources

Resources on Incorporating Primary Sources and Historic Sites in Classroom Instruction

The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial

The Kennedys. From The American Experience/PBS
NOTES: This site covers the entire Kennedy Family but has a specific area on Robert. F. Kennedy

The RFK Assassination UK website The Second Gun Conspiracy Murder in the Heartland
Websites purporting to prove there was a coverup, a second gun or other conspiracy in the Kennedy Assassination abound. These are just three examples. The first of these includes photos from the California State Archives, Time-Life and LAPD, noted as being from the Moldea book.

Secondary Resources

RFK Career. Biography from the RFK Memorial Foundation site.

RFK Official Senate Biography

CBS News Special Report: Death of Robert F. Kennedy. Museum of Broadcast Communications Archives archives@museum.tv

Jansen, Godfrey. Why Robert Kennedy Was Killed: The Story of Two Victims. New York: Third Press, 1970.

Melanson, Philip H. Who Killed Robert Kennedy? Berkeley, California: Odonian, 1993.

Moldea, Dan E. The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy: An Investigation of Motive, Means, and Opportunity. New York: W.W. Norton, 1995.

Schlesinger, Arthur Meier. Robert Kennedy and His Times New York: Ballantine Books, 1979

Turner, William V., and John G. Christian. The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: A Searching Look at the Conspiracy and Cover-up 1968-1978. New York: Random House, 1978.

Witcover, Jules. 85 Days: The Last Campaign of Robert Kennedy, New York: Putnam, 1969.

Associated Heritage and Preservation Organizations

Arlington National Cemetery
Robert F. Kennedy Gravesite
Details of Gravesite and RFK Funeral at Arlington

John F. Kennedy Library & Museum
Permanent Exhibit on Robert. F. Kennedy (focuses on period as Attorney General)
Columbia Point
Boston, Massachusetts 02125-3398
Telephone: 1-866-JFK-1960 or (617) 514-1600

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Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Karen A. Lubieniecki.


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