Share Your Stories

You can write just a few sentences or a longer story – but please keep to about 500 words.  It can be about political events, how you felt, what you did, how it affected your life, a recollection of someone else, a story from parents, etc. Photos and images would also be great.

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18 Comments

  1. From David Fichter:

    I love your idea for this mural. I think it should include something about how the event immediately rippled out on campuses across the country, sparking many forms of resistance.

    I was a student at the time at Harvard and I remember that I quickly turned my dorm room into a silkscreen studio, where students could bring t-shirts to get printed with anti- war / remember Kent State and Jackson State slogans. Later, I and friends started creating silkscreen posters. All classes and other academic events stopped and the whole university became a teaching classroom about the war.

    Later I got involved in civil disobedience actions (blocking draft boards) and mass arrests. It was a very transformative experience that was sparked by the shots heard round the world at Kent State and Jackson State. So although I wasn’t a student at Kent State or witness to the killings, I still felt the ripple-effect (perhaps Tsunami is a more apt metaphor) from the events at that campus.

    David Fichter

  2. From Keith Christensen:

    My memories are vivid of that week. I was at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. There were riots and demonstrations. I was doing community service on that day. I remember being sad and angry and thinking that something really big just happened and wondering what it meant. Thought all routines were changed and it was a historic moment to reflect on and decide on which way to go.

    Keith Christensen

  3. From Rikki Asher:

    It was in the afternoon, over the P.A. system at John Peter Tetard JHS 143, in the Bronx, when we heard an announcement that 4 students were shot at Kent State University. I was in the ninth grade (14 years old?). My classmates and I were shocked and wore black armbands for the rest of the week.

    We had participated in marches on Washington before, and some friends were beaten up for doing so. This began an ongoing commitment to activism. It inspired us to sell home-baked banana bread, brownies, and chocolate chip cookies to help pay for a bus down to Washington to protest the Vietnam war.

    Good luck with the mural!
    Rikki Asher

  4. From Don Polly

    Mike, I was a journalist petty-officer aboard one of the first large American warships to tie up at Saigon in 1956. I covered (but never reported) on what was an early meeting of SEATO. American, French, British flag-rank officers and President-nominated Diem were present. The country was only beginning to be known as Viet Nam, the river was still ‘Saigon’. Even then, those on liberty were given warnings about where not to go, and to travel in groups.

    A number of years later, after university, I was involved in several protests and marches against the war. I remember the day the news reported the shootings at Kent State. I remember thinking (quite apart from the tragedy of the students killed), how inevitable it was for the young and virtually untrained National Guard to shoot the students, just as… the inevitable Mai Lai.

    I was increasingly becoming aware how of deliberate the war had been, how important to certain sectors of ruling class America, and how both the people and in fact, the whole political system were merely pawns in this deliberation.

    I also came to realise how inevitable it was there would be more Viet Nams – always different circumstances, of course, but with the same deliberate overriding intentions – and never quite understanding the equally inevitable and increasing blowback.

    Don Polly
    Paekakariki, New Zealand

  5. From Richard Feinberg:

    I was involved in the anti-war movement even before I graduated high school in 1964. I attended Martin van Buren High in Queens, NY, the same school from which Mario Savio graduated a couple of years earlier. I didn’t know Mario then but followed him to UC, Berkeley, having been inspired by the Free Speech Movement. In fall of 1969 I started at Chicago and tried to maintain some level of activity while preoccupied with my graduate studies. I remember news reports about the shooting and deaths at KSU, and I remember a mass meeting on the evening of May 4th at U of C, where students voted to join others around the country in going on strike.

    I was scheduled to have a mid-term the next day in a psychological anthropology course taught by Ray Fogelson and Bob LeVine, and I wasn’t quite sure what I’d do if the exam went forward as scheduled. As it turned out, they made the mid-term a take-home and, along with the rest of my professors, cancelled classes for the remainder of the semester.

    I did well on the test—probably better than I would have done on an in-class exam—and that helped cement a connection with Fogelson, who encouraged me as I worked my way through the maze that was U of C anthropology. I never imagined that I’d be offered a position at Kent State and, in fact, had already accepted a position in Wellington, New Zealand, when the KSU job offer came along. I ended up changing course, settling in the Kent area, have gotten to know a number of the faculty and students who were around on May 4th (including several who were shot), and have been there ever since.

    Richard Feinberg
    Professor of Anthropology
    Kent State University

  6. From Joe T. Berry:

    In many ways, my own activity around the strike in 1970 was the fastest growing up I ever did. I learned I could lead a crowd, both in rallies and in rational decision making. I learned that hugely broad campus coalitions, including students, campus workers and faculty, can be built and coordinated. I learned that when we act forcefully and are clearly right, we discover friends everywhere, like the forever nameless registrar’s office worker who cleaned up my transcript so that it later never showed my suspension and discipline record and therefore allowed me to go on to be a teacher. I also learned from the differential reaction to Jackson State and Kent State that racism is still alive and well, even in the movement itself, and has to be fought every single day. This is not nearly enough payment for the lives lost that day, but the “movement learning” many of us got very fast at that time certainly changed our lives forever for the better. Helping to lead that strike is one of the proudest moments in my life.

    Joe

    Joe T. Berry
    Visiting Labor Education Specialist
    Labor Education Program,
    School of Labor and Employment Relations
    University of Illinois

  7. From Steve Lane:

    thanks for doing this. May 4 is not forgotten – I have the iconic picture from that day as a screen saver on my computer at work. My co workers look at me funny when they see it.

    I was a student at University of Maryland then, but not yet active. A few days later lots of students there wore the tee shirt with the bulls eye on the back, and the word “Student” above it.

    It took a while, but I finally realized that the war was wrong, although I didn’t’ do much about it back then. Ironically enough, I’m involved now in Keep the Maryland Guard at Home, www. MDGuardHome.org. We are part of a national movement to keep the National Guard out of the President’s control, meaning out of Iraq and Afghanistan. In those countries, as at Kent State, the Guard is being pushed to do a job they were not trained for. Sure enough, they screw it up from time to time.

    Steve Lane

  8. I entered the struggle on a weekend after the massacre. It was 1970 in still rural Brownsville, Texas when I heard of the four who died in Ohio and the massive strikes that were happening thoughout the country. My high school friends (I graduated in 1969 nearly a year before) and I marched by the resaca in Ringold (Porter) Park. Just a handful of us with makeshift banners, flowers, and heavy hearts wishing we could do more, be elsewhere, be more. I remember how connected we felt to “our generation” and how disconnected we felt from society. My friends and I walked home from that park each in our own thoughts and predilections. I walked into a life that sent me to the University of Houston, attending a socialist forum on Black & Chicana Women’s Liberation, joining the SMC that, Mike, you helped to inspire, connecting with others in the Young Socialist Alliance and eventually the Socialist Workers Party. We fought hard, smart, and won the day in ending the war in Vietnam. We built not only the “movement” but the “Vietnam Syndrome” that became the conscience against imperialist wars of aggression whose dim strains yet can be heard in the struggle to end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. We spent our youth in hopes of changing this society. It was a youth well spent and of which I remain proud to this day and unto my death. To all my friends, my comrades, I miss you all and you have remained in my heart throughout the years. It seems so trivial to say that I “learned so much” from you because in truth, you made me who I am and any success I have had in the ensuing years, I owe to you and to our time when we changed the world.

    The world yet needs to be changed for the better, but what we did can never be erased by time or the myopic preoccupations of the petty capitalist class that stains the fabric of society and has been such a blight on humanity.
    We Will Not Mourn, We Will Continue to Organize
    We Will Not Give Up Until the World is Free
    In Memoriam
    Hasta La Victoria Siempre

  9. I’m from Canada’s west coast. The Coast has its own unique cross-border culture,
    and in the 60s I knew Berkeley better than anywhere in my own country east of the Rockies. My life then mostly revolved around politics, the war, civil rights – 60s issues. In 1970 I was in my 20s. I had recently left university, married young, and had embarked on a new phase of my life, a very conservative one by comparison. My husband was a few years older than I was, more a product of the 50s than the 60s, and we’d settled down in small town Ontario. I was busy dealing with my first baby, the ups and downs of marriage, and finding new friends. It was a shiny new world for me and though the marriage would end up a disaster, at the time I felt secure and happy.

    One sunny day, as I pushed my daughter’s stroller ahead of me on our daily walk, I heard fragments of news reports about violence at Kent State coming from someone’s TV. I rushed home in a panic, and spent the next few days glued to the news. The killings were a brutal reminder that nothing had changed; my marriage and my conventional new life suddenly felt like a betrayal. I promised myself then to remember at all times that the struggle never ends, you can never become complacent, you must always find some way to stay in the fight.

  10. In 1968 I joined SDS, dropped out of college and was organizing full time against the war. Among other things I participated in an anti-war publishing operation which printed a a great deal of anti-war literature, including 2 underground GI newspapers, Left Face (published at Ft. McLellan, Anniston, AL, starting in October 1969), and, Rap, (published at Ft Benning, GA. Starting in November 1969). I never forgot what happened at Kent State. I later continued my political work as a filmmaker, including as Executive Producer for Kent State, The Day the War Came Home. It’s the first and only time National Guardsmen who shot students spoke on camera. The show won a News & Documentary Emmy Award. It’s now being released on DVD for the 40th anniversary. Check it out at http://www.kentstatedvd.com. If you want any images from this show for the mural, please let me know.

  11. From Gloria Bletter:

    I was an active protester against the Vietnam war from very early in US involvement there. I remember in horror the news and the photographs about the killings by the National Guard!! Our own armed reservists, turned against students. That was the crucial fact for me.

    Of course, the national Guard had been and still is, used against Black dissenters, but this act struck home, and I was more naive then [am now 69 years of age] about what our government will do to consolidate (and aggrandize) its power.

    Gloria Bletter

  12. My remembrance of May 4, 1970 is forever linked with feelings of
    impotence. 
     
    In 1970 I was 32, living on a college campus with my family and the
    massacre felt very close to home. The television coverage was visceral
    then – in a time when we were not yet totally anesthetized to violent
    images entering our lives on a daily basis. Students and faculty
    immediately organized strikes and teach-ins that brought the academic
    routine of the college to a stand-still. But it was all talk and seemed
    a limp inadequate response to so much blood and injustice. 
     
    That experience triggered older memories of the burning of the Freedom
    Riders bus nine years earlier on Mothers Day 1961. Then, I knew there
    was something concrete that I could do and I became a Freedom Rider
    myself. 
     
    All these years later, I still feel that whatever I do personally in
    response to acts of violence is too little, 
    but have not let go of the necessity of doing something. 
     
    Janet Braun-Reinitz 

  13. I remember those days so well! I was in Madison, Wisconsin, active in the antiwar movement, when it happened. The university was shut down quite a bitt that year, and remember rallies being held almost every morning, riots and tear gas during the day, and police marching the street at night. One night I remember seeing the National Guard marching down the street and I thought..oh no, we’re going to turn into a police state!!
    Although the fact that there was a draft had a lot to do with the climate of the country at the time, I was disappointed that the same level of dissent didn’t arise on our college campuses over the Iraq war. But one thing I have been glad to see is that we are treating our veterans a lot better than we did during the Vietnam War. I’m glad we’ve finally come to realize it’s all about loving our troops enough to work to bring them home, and hating the war…not the warrior.
    Peace, Lisa

  14. I was not born until 1974. What I first learned about Kent State was a brief memory of media interviews from 1990 while in high school in Michigan. When I told people where I was going to college I remember telling people “you know, that place where they shot students in our history book.”.

    When came to campus I didn’t join the M4TF until my Sophmore year…and I feel like I’ve been there ever since. More than 15+ years of invovlement in remembering and educating about the events. And I feel like I’m always learning something new or hearing a different perspective. I like hearing the little stories connected to the events – the families, the wounded, the 24 American GI’s that also died on 5-4-1970, the sole survivor of a plane crash from that day in California, the reaction and legacies that it has left with the witnesses and friends, the musicians who wrote songs about the events, the poets, the artists, and more. These are the stories that resound most with me. And why I think Mike’s on the right track with this mural project.

    I have been writing a thick coffee table / textbook sized book about the events for the past few years. It will be done after this year’s 40th anniversary events. I’ve researched the stories in the DKS, the RC, and all other media – read all of the books and spent year after year listening to these stories.

    A sample outline is available on my blog. (http://ishouldbeinaninstitution.blogspot.com)

    Peace
    Sarah

  15. The 1970 events at Kent and Jackson State colleges prompted the most massive outpouring of political posters ever seen in this country, our equivalent to the posters of Paris in 1968. Here’s a page showing some of them.

    Thanks, Mike, for keeping the flame alive.

  16. I will always remember May 4. I wasn’t present at the demonstration and when the shootings took place. I was up late the previous night after the national guard chased us back to tri towers. We negotiated a truce that allowed the demonstrators to go home in the early morning. I was awakened by sirens and rushed to campus to find a standoff between demonstrators and guardsmen, the air filled with gas and smoke. A professor pleading for people to leave before anyone else was shot. I saw the blood of Jeffrey Miller and still could not comprehend what had happened. I stayed in town during curfew and watched the students flee in panic. Helicopters and jeeps watched the night streets. Eventually my roomates and I fled out of fear of vigilantes (though exaggerated). I was at every event from May 1 until May 4. Yet it is as if I was never there because I missed the shooting even though i am one of the Kent 25.It created an odd sense of survivor guiilt as if some how I could have prevented this from happening. I think many felt that way afterwards. Forty years later, the sense of waste and injustice still lingers in my memory. I visit Kent every time I come to Ohio. Kent will always be an integral part of my life experience. Rick Felber

  17. The student strike vote in May, 1970 at the University of Connecticut (Hartford campus) was not triggered by the killings at Kent State. At least, not initially. The student referendum that took place ended up opposing the strike by a majority of those voting. But the May 4th murders seeped into our consciousness. In the end, an overwhelming majority of us did not attend classes. The campus was, for all intents and purposes, closed.

    At the UConn School of Social Work just down the road, students issued a statement announcing the school’s shutdown. It read in part that “students, faculty and staff [are] deeply shocked by the unnecessary tragedy of murder and wounding at Kent State University. We ask: why was military force necessary on Kent State campus? Why were the troops issued live ammunition? What is really behind Vice-President Spiro Agnew’s assertion that this unhappy event was predictable?”

    The statement called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Cambodia, an end to the jailing of political prisoners in New Haven and around the country, and revision of Hartford police guidelines on the use of deadly force.

    At UConn Hartford, we distributed a strike edition of the local student newspaper, Intercourse. One student wrote:” Strike! A paralyzing five-letter word to the businessman who loses a day’s pay, to the student who is afraid to miss an exam. It’s a monkey wrench thrown into the machine—for the cogs of the machine who cannot exist out of the machine it means chaos. We’re not cogs. Kids who can think…we can make the paralyzing five-letter word a longer one…Let’s make it a Moratorium, stopping the works, examining the mechanism, examining ourselves.”

    Student government president Greg Kuyumjian was quoted as saying that only an 80% to 90% strike would be effective, but that on campus “you couldn’t get 80-90% of the students to go to the bathroom.” He supported the strike however, because it would free up student resources to go into the community, engage the public in meetings on the domestic and foreign policy issues of the day, and to contact Congress to oppose Nixon’s expansion of the war.

    I was 18, I was indestructible. Then Allison, Bill, Jeff and Sandy died. And two more students died at Jackson State College in Mississippi ten days later. And that’s when we learned of the three young people killed by police in Orangeburg, South Carolina while protesting segregation in 1968. Not so indestructible, I realized.

  18. The shootings at kent State left me finally wondering what this country was really all about. I was in the 7th grade in Ma. at the time. I always believed that prople had the right to protest something they believed in. Kent state must never be forgotten.


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