Kent State Remembers May 4, 1970, With Annual Commemoration

The Power of Our Voices

On May 3-4, 2024, Kent State University will hold its annual commemoration honoring the memory of May 4, 1970, a tragic day when the Ohio National Guard fired on Kent State University students during an anti-war protest on campus, killing four students, wounding nine students, and sparking a turning point in American History. 

Through looking back, Kent State also looks ahead with awareness of the many ways in which the legacy of May 4 is evident in the university today and in what’s to come. 

“The Power of Our Voices” theme will continue to inspire this year’s May 4 commemoration. 

May 4 Commemoration

May 2

Civic Engagement for Peaceful Change: May 4th, Social Justice and Nonviolent Action
This all-day conference for K-12 educators, students, and Kent State University faculty and staff will help participants demonstrate knowledge about the critical history of student activism and organizing at Kent State, emphasizing the significance of May 4. Registration is required. 

May 3

Jerry M. Lewis May 4 Lecture Series 
At 11:30 a.m., Kent State will hold the Jerry M. Lewis May 4 Lecture Series. The lecture and luncheon will take place in the Kent Student Center Ballroom and will feature Chris Post, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Geography, who will present “Developing and Interpreting the Wounded Student Markers at Kent State.” This ticketed event is free and open to the public. Tickets will be available on April 3. 

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Voices of Democracy 
At 3 p.m. in the Kent State Student Center Ballroom, author and journalist Lawrence Roberts will discuss his book “Mayday 1971: A White House at War, a Revolt on the Streets, and the Untold History of America’s Biggest Mass Arrest.” The book chronicles the events of Mayday 1971, when a multi-day Vietnam War protest in Washington, D.C., led to the largest mass arrest in the country's history. Following his presentation, he will join Kent State Students for a moderated Q&A. This ticketed event is free and open to the public. Tickets will be available on April 3. 
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The Power of Our Voices: Remembering the Gwangju Uprising 
At 5 p.m., a panel discussion with the School of Peace and Conflict Studies faculty and a delegation of faculty from Chonnam National University will take place in the Kent Student Center Ballroom. The panel will discuss the Gwangju Uprising, also known as the May 18 Democratic Uprising, which occurred in 1980. It was led by Chonnam National University students protesting martial law. After clashes with the South Korean military, citizens joined, seizing government buildings and arming themselves against the national government. The government reported 165 deaths, but estimates suggest the toll ranged from 600 to over 2,000, with victims later memorialized in a national cemetery. A light meal will be provided. This ticketed event is free and open to the public. Tickets will be available on April 3. 
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Candlelight Walk and Vigil
The annual Candlelight Walk and Vigil will begin at 11 p.m. This cornerstone of the commemoration began in 1971. There will be food before the Candlelight Walk on the Commons and in the Prentice Hall parking lot. 

May 4

May 4 Commemoration 
The campus community and visitors will gather at noon on the May 4 site at the Kent State Commons (rain location: Kent Student Center Ballroom) to commemorate the moment that gunfire erupted 54 years ago. The commemoration will include a performance by the Kent Chorale, feature remarks from university students and administrators, the ringing of the Victory Bell and a moment of silence at 12:24 p.m.

The commemoration remembers those killed – Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder – and those wounded – Alan Canfora, John Cleary, Thomas Grace, Dean Kahler, Joseph Lewis, Donald Mackenzie, James Russell, Robert Stamps and Douglas Wrentmore – on May 4, 1970.

Music on the Commons will precede the commemoration at 11 a.m. 

Additional May 4 Commemorative Programs and Events 

University departments, student organizations, and local arts entertainers will host various May 4 events and programs leading up to the commemoration on May 4:

  • The May 4 Visitors Center will host a discussion by Derf Backderf, author and illustrator of the acclaimed graphic novel “Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio,” on at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 11, in room 226 of Taylor Hall. 
  • The May 4 Task Force will hold a screening of the film “Fire in the Heartland” from 5-8 p.m. on April 16, 2024, in the May 4 Visitors Center Reflections Gallery. 
  • The Kent Stage will also feature Harvest, The Ultimate Neil Young Tribute, at 7:30 p.m. on May 3, 2024.

Visit the May 4 Events Calendar for additional programs and events.