Kent State Community Gathers for 49th Annual May 4 Commemoration, Host Renowned Journalist Bob Woodward
Nearly a century ago, residents of the Greenwood homes district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, endured one of the darkest days in our country’s history. According to news reports, a single day of race riots in May 1921 ended with as many as 300 dead and 1,000 homes destroyed.
J. Kavin Ross, an advocate for the research and review of the incident, served as keynote speaker for Kent State’s 49th commemoration of the historic events of May 4, 1970, where protesting students, observers and soldiers gathered on that fateful day when the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four students and wounded nine others on the Kent Campus.
Mr. Ross, CEO of KAVISION, calls Tulsa home, having grown up in the area known as the Black Wall Street of America. He is a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School and the University of Tulsa, and his work includes the identification of all individuals killed and families directly impacted by the Tulsa Race Riots.
Mr. Ross is related to Don Ross, former State Sen. of Oklahoma who, along with State Sen. Maxine Horner, is credited with bringing national attention to the buried history.
Bob Woodward to Provide Insight Into Vietnam War, President Nixon’s Comments About Kent State
On May 4 at 7 p.m., legendary journalist Bob Woodward appeared at Kent State’s Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center (MAC Center) as part of the Presidential Speaker Series. His presentation coincided with annual May 4 Commemoration events.
Mr. Woodward is currently the associate editor for The Washington Post, where he has worked since 1971. He was the lead reporter for The Washington Post’s articles on the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002.
During his speech at Kent State, Mr. Woodward considered the events of 1969 and the Vietnam War leading up to Cambodia. He also reflected on President Richard Nixon’s quote that “the few days after Kent State were among the darkest of my presidency.”
Presidential Speaker Series events are free and open to the public. However, a ticket is required for admission.
A series of free, public events have been organized by the May 4 Task Force and other campus organizations, the May 4 Visitors Center and the university. All of the events were held on the university’s Kent Campus.
At 7 p.m. in the Kent Student Center Kiva, the May 4 Task Force presented a panel discussion titled “Student Activism: Then and Now.” The event featured two student activists along with Howie Emmer, who was an original member of Kent State’s Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and E. Timothy Moore, professor emeritus in Kent State’s Department of Pan-African Studies and a former member of Black United Students (BUS).
At 11 p.m., the annual candlelight walk and vigil began on the Kent State Commons. Organized by the May 4 Task Force, the march began at the Victory Bell and continued around campus, concluding at the Prentice Hall parking lot, where lighted markers indicate where the four victims – Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder – were shot and killed. The candle bearers then started the vigil that continued throughout the night until the commemoration began at noon on Saturday.
From 10-11 a.m., Kent State’s May 4 Visitors Center and the Kent State University Bookstore presented a book-signing event with several authors who have written about May 4. The event was held in the bookstore, which is located in the Kent Student Center. This year’s participating authors were:
- Barbara Child (“Memories of a Vietnam Veteran”).
- Laura Davis (“This We Know: A Chronology of the Shootings at Kent State, May 1970” and “Democratic Narrative, History and Memory”).
- Susan Erenrich (“Grassroots Leadership and the Arts for Social Change”).
- Sabrina Fedel (“Leaving Kent State”).
- Thomas M. Grace (“Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties”).
- David Hassler (“May 4th Voices: Kent State, 1970: A Play”).
- Miriam Jackson (“We Shall Not Be Moved: The May 4th Coalition, the ‘Gym Struggle’ at Kent State University of 1977 and the Question of Ultimate National Control of the Vietnam Era”).
- Jason Prufer (“Small Town, Big Music: The Outsized Influence of Kent, Ohio, on the History of Rock and Roll”).
- Tom Riddle (“Cambodia and the Year of UNTAC: Life and Love in Cambodia’s 1993 Election”).
At noon, the commemoration, organized by the May 4 Task Force, began at the Kent Student Center Ballroom and included a keynote speech by Mr. Ross along with remarks from Kent State President Beverly J. Warren, speeches on behalf of the four students who were killed and the ringing of the Victory Bell. Due to inclement weather, the event was moved from its original location on the Kent State Commons to the Kent Student Center Ballroom.
At 7 p.m., the Presidential Speaker Series event featuring Mr. Woodward took place in the MAC Center.
May 4 Visitors Center Hours
The May 4 Visitors Center was open during the week of Commemoration. Using images, artifacts and multimedia, the May 4 Visitors Center’s exhibits tell the story of the decade leading up to May 4, 1970, the events of that day, the aftermath and the historical impact. It is located in Taylor Hall.
Visitors to the May 4 Visitors Center can see its newest exhibition, “Bill: An All-American Boy,” which honors Mr. Schroeder’s life. His sister, Nancy Tuttle, and nephew, David Tuttle, helped create the exhibition by loaning some of his personal items to the May 4 Visitors Center.
“Bill: An All-American Boy” is the third in a series of exhibitions in tribute to the four lives lost on May 4, 1970. The purpose behind these exhibitions is to focus not just on the deaths of these students, but on the lives that they lived and the people who they were.
Hours for the May 4 Visitors Center were:
- Thursday, May 2: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Friday, May 3: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Saturday, May 4: 9 a.m.-noon; 2:30-5:30 p.m.