Two Kent State Collaborators Win Oral History Association Award for Work on May 4, 1970, Voices Documentary

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The documentary film May 4th Voices: Kent State, 1970, created by two Kent State University collaborators, is a recipient of the 2014 Oral History Association’s Oral History in a Nonprint Format Award. The Oral History Association is an organization that seeks to bring together all people interested in oral history as a way of collecting and interpreting human memories to foster knowledge and human dignity.

Kenneth Bindas, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of History, and David Hassler, the director of the Wick Poetry Center, both in Kent State’s College of Arts and Sciences, worked together to produce the documentary film based on Hassler’s play May 4th Voices, which premiered on local PBS television in 2012. The play, directed by Kent State theatre instructor Katherine Burke, is based on the Kent State Shootings Oral History Project, a project that collects and provides access to personal accounts of the May 4, 1970, shootings at Kent State and their aftermath. The award was officially announced at the Oral History Association’s annual meetings. Both the play and documentary film, along with a Teacher’s Guide, is published by the Kent State University Press and were funded with grants from the Ohio Humanities Council. 

This award recognizes a film, video, performance piece, radio program or series, exhibition or drama that makes significant and outstanding use of oral history to interpret a historical event, person, place or way of life.  

“I think the award recognizes David’s excellent work and dedication to both the legacy and memory of May 4, 1970, as well as to the potentials of oral history as a teaching tool on a variety of levels — from history to acting to digital productions to marketing and promotion,” Bindas said.

The Oral History Association’s awards committee chose this piece because it did an “excellent job using oral history in a creative manner while also getting the voices of the people across,” said Stephen Sloan, president of the Oral History Association. “The project’s use of the transcripts voiced by current Kent State students helped bring the history alive. It is a very professional product that represents the oral history field well.”

“The tragic events of May 4, 1970, at Kent State University had a profound impact on Northeast Ohio and the nation,” Hassler said. “May 4th Voices was originally conceived, created and performed in honor of the 40th commemoration of the May 4 tragedy. The publication of the play and accompanying study guide, edited by Shaker Heights High School English teacher John Morris, presents an important opportunity for our community to take ownership more fully of its own tragic story, and to engage a regional and national community not only with the emotional truth of this tragedy, but to connect it to the larger ongoing issues of social justice, conflict and trauma.”

For more information about the Oral History Association, visit www.oralhistory.org.

For more information about Kent State’s Department of History, visit www.kent.edu/cas/history.

For more information about Kent State’s Wick Poetry Center, visit www.kent.edu/wick.

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Photo Caption: 
Kenneth Bindas, Ph.D. (left), professor and chair of the Department of History, and David Hassler (right), the director of the Wick Poetry Center, worked together to produce a documentary film based on Hassler’s play May 4th Voices, which premiered on local PBS television in 2012. The documentary is a recipient of the 2014 Oral History Association’s Oral History in a Nonprint Format Award. 

Media Contacts:
Kenneth Bindas, kbindas@kent.edu, 330-672-2882
David Hassler, dhassle1@kent.edu, 330-672-1769
Emily Vincent, evincen2@kent.edu, 330-672-8595