May-4-1970

USA. Ohio. Kent. May 4, 1970. Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14 year-old student, kneels beside Jeffrey Milley who’d been shot by the National Guard. Though the photo that first circulated turned out to be manipulated, this is the original, un-doctored version. This picture won the Pulitzer Prize.

The Kent State shootings occurred at Kent State University and involved the shooting of college students by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970. National Guardsmen fired into a group of unarmed students, killing four and wounded another nine—some marching against the Vietnam War and American invasion of Cambodia, some walking by or observing the protest from a distance. 

Guardsmen had on the previous day used tear gas to disperse protesters and, by May 4th, rallies were banned and classes resumed. But 2,000 people gathered in what quickly turned into confrontation. Tear gas and bayonets were met with rocks and verbal taunts, which were met with more than 60 rounds of gunfire. In 1974, all charges were dropped against eight of the Guardsmen involved. There were 28 guards who admitted to firing on top of the hill, 25 of these guards fired 55 rounds into the air and into the ground, 2 of the guards fired .45cal pistol shots, 2 into the crowd, and 3 into the air, one guard fired birdshot into the air. The guardsmen fired 61 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.

There was a significant national response to the shootings: hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of four million students, and the event further affected public opinion—at an already socially contentious time—over the role of the United States in the Vietnam War.

Photograph: John Filo/Getty

About May 4th, 1970

Hi y'all, I thought since I’ve mentioned May 4th, I would make a post with a bit more information for you.

I have been a student at Kent State for two years now, and for my first year, I worked at the May 4th Visitor’s Center. I’ve talked to professors that were there, my parents who grew up in Ohio, survivors, and endless amounts of people on tour through the museum and memorial. Some people come with just a curiosity to understand what happened, others come to confront a horrible day in their memory…most are just kids being forced to go to the center for a diversity requirement for a class. Regardless, May 4th is a watershed moment and day for not only Kent State or Ohio or even the United States, but for the world in general. On that day, and the days following at Jackson State, we found the real cost of freedom – human lives.

I’m not here to give you an entire history lesson. In fact, it’s pretty straightforward how this came to be. On April 30th, President Nixon announced the expansion of the war in Vietnam across country borders into Cambodia. Most people who were a part of the anti-war movement saw this as an escalation and expansion of a conflict that was already wasting too many lives. The anti-war movement was spearheaded by young, college-aged students, and often flourished on campuses across the nation. Most kids, after all, had gone to college to avoid the draft. Those unlucky enough to afford college (especially POC), were instead drafted. If they managed to come back from Vietnam, which was honestly unlikely, they were filled with rage and anger and PTSD from what they had seen and done. College students were seeing their friends, at ages 18-25 come back from a foreign country disabled, scared, angry, and addicted. They saw friends commit suicide, fall into drinking and drug habits, and have their lives destroyed before they even started.

So, in response and following a few incidents (including the burning of the campus ROTC building – which i don’t condone. As a ROTC cadet, I can tell you that it isn’t the military’s fault. It’s the government’s.), the planned peaceful protest on May 4th was disbanded, and the National Guard, which had been on campus for several days, was told to disperse the crowd. When the gathered students did not disperse, the Ohio National Guard opened fire, killing four students and injuring nine, one suffering from permanent paralysis.
It’s still contested if the order to fire was ever given. Some say yes, others say no, others say that the sound of a rock hitting pavement sounded like a gunshot, so the ONG responded. But that isn’t what is important. What is important is that young adults just barely on their own and just starting their educations were killed, two of which weren’t even protesting – they were just walking to class.

And what’s more important for us so many years later is the impact the Kent Four had on our nation and how Kent State continues to shape dissent culture. Kent State spurred colleges across the nation, from Jackson State to Washington, to take action. To tell our government that kids will not die overseas and at home. It was a beautifully tragic moment in which American youth reared with their ugly, awesome power and finally pushed back, and for once, they were heard. While not at first or not as fast as wanted, the tragedy of May 4th is ultimately the turning point when it comes to American public opinion on the war in Vietnam. I guess people didn’t like it when the war was brought to our doorsteps.

As for today, if you don’t live in Kent, or haven’t attended Kent, it’s hard to understand how important this day is, and I understand that. I live in Johnson Hall, which overlooks the hill the ONG marched up. If I look out the window from where I’m currently sitting, I can see the pagoda where Allison Krause stood mere minutes before her death. I can see where the ONG knelt and took aim at the students in the parking lot. If I want to go to the Student Center, or my classes, I have to walk through the parking lot, and see the four eerie, roped off squares of ashphalt, sitting there like tombs for a war I never knew. I can point out exactly where Jimmy Miller’s brain was found, I can show you where a bullet struck a sculpture, I can walk you over the same path the National Guard took.

But more than that, I can tell you that Kent State changed American culture irreversibly. Perhaps without Kent State, the war in Vietnam would have lasted longer, or still be going on. Our grandparents and parents that were born during or after the war might not have lived through it. In our museum actually there’s a great display showing, based on birthdays, who would have been drafted. My entire family would have gone. Or maybe, without Kent State, we would have used the draft again in the War on Terror, or the Gulf War, or even some other future, imaginary war. Or, without Kent State, we would think it’s okay to use fatal military force against protesters, or we’d think it’s okay to park a tank in front of a university library.

One of my professors last year, Chris, was six feet from Allison Krause when she fell. The only reason she wasn’t shot was because she was washing tear gas out of her eyes. My flute teacher’s husband was working in Taylor Hall and heard the crack of rifle fire outside his office window. A man I gave a tour to was frantically searching for his girlfriend in the parking lot when the ONG crested the hill. My dad’s old boss was a soldier in the National Guard, stationed on campus.

In a day and age where GOP officials have called for “another Kent State” to deal with dissent, May 4th is more and more relevant to understanding our rights as human beings to protest, to fight for peace, and to be free and safe while doing so. I pray another Kent State will never happen, because no one deserves to die to prove a point. And honestly, Kent State left such a bad taste that never again will college students fear violent intervention. Sometimes, our lessons are forgotten, but never again will a student or anyone else die for believing that flowers are better than bullets.

Remember the Kent Four, and more importantly, remember what they gave you – freedom, at the cost of their lives.

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4 May 1970, Kent State University Ohio - Scenes from the Kent state massacre, when national guard opened fire on an anti-war protest, killing 4 students and wounding 30 more.

The killings followed days of protest around the campus after the Nixon administration announced the invasion of Cambodia.

Following the killings a student strike spread across the country, resulting in weeks of protests and riots on and around college campuses.

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On this day in music history: June 4, 1970 - “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills Nash & Young is released. Written by Neil Young, it is the third single credited to the rock quartet. Young is inspired to write the song after seeing photos in the May 15, 1970 issue of Life Magazine of the incident at Kent State University in Ohio. On May 4, 1970, students protesting over the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War and plans announced by then President Richard Nixon to launch an offensive in Cambodia, escalate into a confrontation with the Ohio National Guard who are dispatched to break up the demonstration. When students refuse to stand down and begin throwing rocks and tear gas cannisters back, the guardsmen fire sixty seven live rounds into the crowd to make them disperse. Tragically four students (Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder) are gunned down in the melee, with nine others being wounded. Of the four people killed, only Miller and Krause were actually participating in the demonstration. Scheuer and Schroeder were innocent bystanders walking to their next classes. Quickly finishing the song, the band record “Ohio” in the number three studio at the Record Plant in Los Angeles on May 21, 1970 live in just a few takes, with bassist Calvin Samuels and drummer John Barbata. The single’s B-side “Find The Cost Of Freedom” written by Stephen Stills is also recorded the same day. “Ohio” is quickly mastered and rush released by Atlantic Records only two weeks after it is recorded. Some US radio stations ban the record, feeling that it is too controversial and outspoken in its criticism of the Nixon administration. However, it does not stop the song from becoming a hit, peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 8, 1970. Since it is issued as a stand alone single, “Ohio” will not appear on an album until the bands greatest hits album “So Far” in 1974. Though another version is featured on their live album “4-Way Street” in 1971. Over the years, “Ohio” is covered by numerous artists including The Isley Brothers, Paul Weller, The Dandy Warhols, and Ohio natives Devo. Band member (of Devo) Jerry Casale was a student at Kent State at the time of the incident, and knew two of the victims. Crosby, Stills Nash & Young’s version of “Ohio” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2009.

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Urban Outfitters, you have outdone yourselves. Your “Eat Less” shirt was offensive. So was your “Depression” shirt. Your parody shirt with the Star of David that Jewish Holocaust victims were forced to wear was also sick and cruel. And now what? Now you are mocking a school shooting?

For some ungodly reason, Urban Outfitters thought this shirt would be funny.

If you don’t go to or have never been to Kent State, you’ve probably still heard about what happened on May 4, 1970. It didn’t directly affect me, but it was huge. It was a really big deal for our country and the war going on at the time.

In only thirteen seconds, sixty-seven rounds were fired through the air. Four unarmed students were shot and killed. It changed the history of a small town in Ohio forever. Kent State University would never be the same.

This shooting was featured in magazines (Time), newspapers (New York Times), movies (Born on the Fourth of July), and songs (Ohio). If you’ve never heard it, take a listen to Neil Young’s song “Ohio.” If you have heard it and never really paid attention, listen again. Pay attention. “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming. We’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming. Four dead in Ohio.”

People were horrified. And we didn’t forget. Walking on campus by where these shooting took place is… eerie. Walking near where those students’ bodies dropped… is sad and… frightening. It happened right here. We see it everyday. We are reminded everyday.

There is an entire building dedicated to educating visitors about what happened that afternoon. People come from very far away to learn about this. People take pictures. There are signs and explanations.

This was a terrible day. Historical, but terrible. The fear the students and faculty felt must have been unimaginable. Some professors talk about it, what it was like to be here when it happened. Some were students themselves. It may have happened over forty years ago, but that doesn’t mean it is irrelevant. People were injured. People were killed.

And we think this sweater is trendy and cool? We think it’s hipster? This is a joke? Well, we aren’t laughing. Fuck you, Urban Outfitters! We are Kent State!

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The Kent State Shootings, May 4, 1970

Forty-five years ago on May 4th, 1970, Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on unarmed students at Kent State University who were protesting the American invasion of Cambodia.  In a period of 13 seconds, the National Guard troops wounded nine and killed four.  The map above, prepared for the Commission on Campus Unrest, shows “the Commons” area on the Kent State Campus, the movement of the National Guardsmen, and the locations where students were shot. 

Two days earlier on May 2, 1970, the mayor of Kent, Ohio, LeRoy M. Satrom,  had written to the Commander of Troops, Ohio National Guard, requesting assistance in restoring order to the city, particularly near Kent State University. This is a photostatic copy of Mayor Satrom’s letter that was submitted to the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest.

  • Campus scene, Kent State University (OH) 05/04/1970; Photographs and other Graphic Materials; Records of U.S. Attorneys and Marshals; Record Group 118; National Archives.

See also:  Affidavit of Donald S. Mackenzie, wounded at Kent State

It’s 2016 Black History Month was established by Dr. Carter G. Woodson as a motivating force for negroes at that period of time 1926 Negro History Week to ascertain and appreciate their role in the development of America. Just 61 years after the elimination of slavery still in the height of Jim Crow. Dr. Carter Woodson must have felt the burden of racism was pervasive on the American Negro in 1926. This recognition period between the birthdates of two leading figures of negro freedom Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln was to him a natural selection. American Negroes need to feel the pride of accomplishment and the recognition of negro service was necessary. To continue to support the study of American Negro studies Dr. Woodson founded the Negro History Bulletin in 1937. Throughout the lifetime Dr. Woodson’s works revolved around negro historical enlightenment for he understood the power of consciousness as well as believe in self.

It was in 1969 on the campus of Kent State University that this celebratory Black History Month proposed which was celebrated the following year in 1970 at Kent State University. In 1976 the informal celebration of Black History Month was officially recognized by then President Gerald Ford. In conjunction with the celebration of America’s Bicentennial was the establishment of Black History Month every February, a week had formally become a month. Now 40  years later in 2016, 90 years from the original Negro History Week we should ask ourselves has this celebration outlived it’s effectiveness? Would Dr. Carter G. Woodson wanted to have this celebration still ongoing after almost a century?  Oh, we need our children ingrained with the accomplishments of their ancestors that no doubt is evident in what this generation of learners know about black historical imprints on American history.  Yet, has the fact that we allowed our history to be condensed into month of celebrations created a not intentionally a minimization of blacks historically in this country? I for one understood the desire of Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926 calling for schools throughout the nation to instruct negro children about their ancestors historical significance. This was a time when absolutely no negro children were given knowledge to negro historical valor.  I also understand the shift in 1969 at Kent State University for black undergraduates to demand that the Negro History Week become Black History Month. The call at that time on college campuses across the country was a demand for recognition of rights and it was the period where revolution was the flavor of the day. Funny, it seems that 15 months after calling for the Black History Month recognition by black students at Kent State University.  That same university on May 4 of 1970 was the scene of four Kent State University students being murdered by National Guard on that Ohio campus. Who of us from that period can forget the poignant words of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young four dead in OHIO.

Do we as Black Americans need to be motivated to secure knowledge of the accomplishments of our ancestors? Do we as Black Americans need assurances that White Americans will want to seek the knowledge of Black American historical accomplishments?  Can the treatment of Black Americans we treated outside the limits of a specific month? Have Black Americans forgotten the historical relevance that initiated both Negro History Week and Black History Month in the first place?  Personally, I think the time has come for blacks to put Black History Month on the shelf because it simply hasn’t got the juice it once had to move unconscious people to levels of consciousness. Blacks shouldn’t be demanding a month for recognition of service due any longer.  Blacks should issue that each day of a child’s instructional path details the full and true accounting of the American Story. If that isn’t being done simply because schools know that February is the black month than all of America white and black, red and brown are being shortchanged.

1933 Carter G Woodson Miseducation of the Negro:

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his "proper place” and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.“

Sylvester Stone 1970

Stand!
In the end you’ll still be you
One that’s done all the things you set out to do
Stand!
There’s a cross for you to bear
Things to go through if you’re going anywhere
Stand!
For the things you know are right
It’s the truth that the truth makes them so uptight
Stand!

Its time for Black America and all America to understand by placing limitations on when we get knowledge or seemingly perceiving what is  acceptable in sharing or gaining knowledge. We allow those want us in the darkness of ignorance want our people’s too stay put. We must take the energies that endeavored Carter G. Woodson to create the week along with the energies of those young students agitating for change on college campuses in the 1970’s. Now  merge with knowledge a new demand to take a real stand, a real stand for inclusive everyday learning that will allow our children to understand why that stand was necessary.

#canibedonewithblackhistorymonth

It would be great if everyone could take a moment today to remember Jeffery Glenn Miller, Alison B. Krause, William Knox Shroeder, Sandra Lee Scheuer. They were only nineteen or twenty years old. Two were protesting the invasion of Cambodia. Two were just trying to get to class.

None of them deserved to die.

May their deaths not be in vain, may their legacy live on and someday let us not be afraid of the innocent falling at the hands of an authority figure with a gun.