ODN Item of the Week: May 4 Oral Histories

Kent State University has done an extremely thorough job of documenting, reflecting on, and memorializing the events of May 1-4, 1970 that culminated in members of the Ohio Army National Guard firing into a group of unarmed students, killing 4 and injuring 9.

Some of the students were taking part in a protest of U.S. actions in the Vietnam War, and some were terribly unlucky bystanders, circumstances that are sadly relatable to this day.

Row of National Guard personnel at the crest of hill near the Pagoda sculpture,
Courtesy Kent State University

A comprehensive and immersive Visitors Center is available and open to the public, along with a walking tour that you can check out and use while you are there. But if you can’t get there in person, you can learn much about not only the event but also the impact it has had on the local and even national psyche. Kent State has captured and shared dozens of oral histories from eyewitness accounts and other members of the community who were affected by the shootings, and they have gone even further in that sharing by making them available online at DPLA.

Today I listened to an interview with Julio Arturo Fanjul, a Cuban-American who was a junior at Kent State and witnessed not only the shooting but many of the events on the weekend leading up to it. His insight and commentary was especially poignant given the challenges and fears we face today.

Thank you to Kent State for keeping this chapter of U.S. history open to reflection and personal growth, and for sharing in this process with the rest of the country.