Event Title

Kent State Revisited

Presenter Information

Thomas Grace, Erie Community College

Location

Panel 26: Kearney 317

Start Date

27-10-2012 3:00 PM

End Date

27-10-2012 4:30 PM

Description

The proposed paper will summarize the unfolding of the long sixties at Kent State, examining: how the student movement there arose, who comprised its activist cohort, how the campaign they waged for civil rights and against the war in Southeast Asia run headlong into a local and state power structure, and the deadly consequences that ensued.

As word of the fatal shootings spread in May 1970, outraged students throughout the country went on strike to protest the violent suppression of peaceful dissent, while countless others voiced the view that Kent’s protestors only got what was coming to them. In many ways the simultaneous outrage and backlash framed the subsequent debate over the memory and meaning of Kent State: Were the students victims of a deliberate act of injustice that must be remembered in order to be rectified? Were they unarmed combatants in a war to stop a war? Were the students themselves primarily responsible for what happened – the killings an object lesson in what happens when dissent turns into confrontation? Or was it all just a tragic mistake (like the war itself, as some believed) whose wounds could only be healed through acts of public commemoration?

The paper will revisit how so much of what we have come to know about the Kent State campus, and its most infamous day, was shaped by those who wrote the first-draft of its history. The initial press and broadcast treatments of the slayings contributed to myths that continue to have staying power. Was Kent State an activist backwater or, conversely, did it have a long activist tradition that managed to exist below the radar of national attention?

Concomitantly, who were the students of Kent State in the 1960s? Were they, as one contemptuous faculty member wrote as the decade came to a chronological end, the future insurance salesmen of tomorrow? Or alternatively, were they political innocents preyed upon and manipulated by a few “outside agitators” whose shadowy activities brought death and disorder to an otherwise placid campus? What about the Ohio National Guard sent to the campus to quell the antiwar disturbances in May 1970? Were they, as is most often portrayed, scared and youthful, much like those upon whom they fired upon?

And finally, what of the aftermath? Those of a certain age have a hazy recollection of the National Student Strike that followed the May 4, 1970 killings, while the historically minded have knowledge of a plethora of commissions, grand jury investigations and reports, and trials that followed in the wake of the shooting deaths. Yet did the killings, as is so often maintained, silence dissent and bring a literal and figurative end to the 1960s?

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Oct 27th, 3:00 PM Oct 27th, 4:30 PM

Kent State Revisited

Panel 26: Kearney 317

The proposed paper will summarize the unfolding of the long sixties at Kent State, examining: how the student movement there arose, who comprised its activist cohort, how the campaign they waged for civil rights and against the war in Southeast Asia run headlong into a local and state power structure, and the deadly consequences that ensued.

As word of the fatal shootings spread in May 1970, outraged students throughout the country went on strike to protest the violent suppression of peaceful dissent, while countless others voiced the view that Kent’s protestors only got what was coming to them. In many ways the simultaneous outrage and backlash framed the subsequent debate over the memory and meaning of Kent State: Were the students victims of a deliberate act of injustice that must be remembered in order to be rectified? Were they unarmed combatants in a war to stop a war? Were the students themselves primarily responsible for what happened – the killings an object lesson in what happens when dissent turns into confrontation? Or was it all just a tragic mistake (like the war itself, as some believed) whose wounds could only be healed through acts of public commemoration?

The paper will revisit how so much of what we have come to know about the Kent State campus, and its most infamous day, was shaped by those who wrote the first-draft of its history. The initial press and broadcast treatments of the slayings contributed to myths that continue to have staying power. Was Kent State an activist backwater or, conversely, did it have a long activist tradition that managed to exist below the radar of national attention?

Concomitantly, who were the students of Kent State in the 1960s? Were they, as one contemptuous faculty member wrote as the decade came to a chronological end, the future insurance salesmen of tomorrow? Or alternatively, were they political innocents preyed upon and manipulated by a few “outside agitators” whose shadowy activities brought death and disorder to an otherwise placid campus? What about the Ohio National Guard sent to the campus to quell the antiwar disturbances in May 1970? Were they, as is most often portrayed, scared and youthful, much like those upon whom they fired upon?

And finally, what of the aftermath? Those of a certain age have a hazy recollection of the National Student Strike that followed the May 4, 1970 killings, while the historically minded have knowledge of a plethora of commissions, grand jury investigations and reports, and trials that followed in the wake of the shooting deaths. Yet did the killings, as is so often maintained, silence dissent and bring a literal and figurative end to the 1960s?