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.
Untitled (Think/flag) was William N. Copley’s contribution to a portfolio released by Artists and Writers, Protest, Inc. to protest the War in Vietnam in 1967. The 16 artists who contributed to the portfolio, including Ad Reinhardt, Louise Nevelson, and Leon Golub, employed a range of aesthetic strategies, from graphic representations of anguished bodies to abstractions that critiqued the conflict in symbolic rather than literal ways. See more from the portfolio on view in An Incomplete History of Protest.
5 May 1970: Thousands of University of Washington students
occupying and blocking Intersate Highway 5 (I-5) and facing state troopers in
riot gear as they protested the killings of 4 students by the national guard at Kent State University and the
invasion of Cambodia.
11 October 1969, Days of Rage demonstration organized by the Weatherman. The few hundred riotous student protesters tore through Chicago’s financial district, and engaged in running battles with the cops.
On October 21, 1967, an estimated crowd of 70,000-100,000 demonstrators gathered by the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to protest the Vietnam War and march on the Pentagon in the first major national protest against the war. In addition to the signs, chants, and other hallmarks of an anti-war demonstration, activists distributed daisies, and additionally planned to levitate the Pentagon off its foundation in an act of political theater. By the end of the protest, the Pentagon remained in place and over 600 protesters had been jailed, and dozens hospitalized.
This exhibition presents both iconic and recently discovered National Archives records related to 12 critical episodes in the Vietnam War. They trace the policies and decisions made by the architects of the conflict and help untangle why the United States became involved in Vietnam, why it went on so long, and why it was so divisive for American society.