How Bobby Kennedy’s Funeral Train United America


The Robert F. Kennedy funeral train of June 1968 has become an American icon. As it rumbled slowly through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland, we see the faces of a lost country, frozen for history from grief and reverence.

Thanks to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, that national moment has been brought back to us, especially the faces. We see them both in the photographs taken from the train and by those taken by regular people from alongside the tracks.

Look at them—African Americans in Philadelphia and Baltimore, smaller groups of whites in the open country in between—the old Democratic coalition. This is the alliance Bobby Kennedy tried so hard to hold together amid the then-deepening national divide over civil rights and the Vietnam War.

Kennedy knew himself the…

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