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.
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.