Kent State, 45 Years Later

NOTE: This originally appeared in May of 2010 for the 40th anniversary of the Kent State Shootings

Jerry Lewis is a professor emeritus of sociology at Kent State University and was a witness to the shootings that happened on campus 45 years ago. Patrick Coy is the director of the university’s Center for Applied Conflict Management. They talk with Bob about what happened that day and how Kent State has memorialized the event ever since.

When Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Knox Schroeder woke up on Monday, May 4, 1970, they did not know they would die that day.  Certainly, Scheuer and Schroeder didn’t know they were in harm’s way.  They didn’t participate in the student protests; they had been walking to class at 12:24pm when the Ohio National Guard started shooting.  But those four students, plus nine others who were wounded by bullets fired from the Guard’s M1 rifles, now represent a blotch in American history – one that pits armed force against young and idealistic activists.

The student rallies started on Saturday, May 1 after President Richard Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia the day before.  The events turned violent when a ROTC building was set on fire.  Ohio Governor James Rhodes called in the guard and by Monday, there were nearly 1,000 troops on campus.  But no one really could have imagined they would have opened fire on the unarmed students in broad daylight like they did.

As part of their forty-year anniversary, Kent State has established a wonderful site with archival photos and audio of the events that happened that weekend.  It’s a good time to revisit both histories and the contributions students have given the nation through activism.