May 4 Commemorations by the Decades

The tragic events that occurred at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, in which the Ohio National Guard killed four students and wounded nine other students, had an enduring affect that has resonated for more than 50 years.


Each year since 1971, students, faculty and others have gathered at 11 p.m. on May 3 to take part in a candle light procession around the perimeter of the campus to remember those who were killed on May 4, 1970. After the procession, a vigil begins with people positioned in the spots where the four students fell that tragic day. Emeritus Professor Jerry M. Lewis established the candlelight walk and vigil with the help of students. It was also in 1971 when the university's national leadership role in promoting nonviolence and other democratic values began. That year, the Center for Peaceful Change was established to generate research, teaching and community outreach focused on nonviolent conflict resolution. The center has since been renamed the School of Peace and Conflict Studies. The May 4 Task Force student organization has coordinated commemorative programming at 12:24 p.m. on May 4 each year since 1975. In 1977, the university established May 4 as an official Day of Remembrance and as such, classes recess from noon to 2 p.m.

Kahler holds a vigil
studens sit in a room with drawings on the walls
two people sit by candlelight on May 4, 1971
A man lights the May 4 sculpture
Speakers give a presentation on the stage on May 4, 1971
A survivor of the May 4 shootings gives a speech
A crowd surrounds the site of the May 4 shootings
Graduation is held on May 4, 1978
A student places a flower around the May 4 memorial
Family of Sandy Scheuer stand where she was shot
Tents are placed on May 4, 1977
A sit-in is organized on May 4, 1977
Protestors stand on the edge of Taylor hall in protest of police on campus
A demonstration is led with a banner reading 'The truth demands justice'
Candles are lit on May 4, 1975
A man stands vigil on Bill's space
Women lead a protest
Paper tombstones are placed, calling for the end of the war
Students sit on the lawn in mourning


Alan Canfora, Dean Kahler, Tom Grace and other students wounded during the May 4 shootings, as well as Kwame Tourme (Stokely Carmichael), black activist and former chair of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), were among the speakers at the Noon Rally on May 4, 1980. In 1984, a university committee recommended the erecting of a permanent memorial on campus. A national design competition for the memorial was initiated in 1985, and the design of Chicago architect Bruno Ast was selected for the memorial.

Candles are lit around the May 4 memorial
A demonstration walk is held
The wounded students sit for an interview
A woman is silhouetted against the dawn sky
family hold a vigil in the evening
Metzenbaum gives a speech
Students hold a vigil walk
Candles are lit on the commemoration
Mourners hold a candlelit vigil
Kovic gives a speech
A vigil is held beside Bill Schroeder's spot
Students look over the plans for the May 4 Memorial
A vigil walk is held on May 4, 1985


The May 4 Site and Memorial, designed by Chicago architect Bruno Ast, was dedicated on May 4, 1990, as part of the 20th May 4 commemoration. Engraved in the plaza’s stone threshold are the words "Inquire. Learn. Reflect."The memorial is surrounded by 58,175 daffodil bulbs, which symbolize the number of our country’s losses in Vietnam. In 1997, Crosby Stills & Nash performed "Ohio," the song written by Neil Young about the shootings at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. They performed the song at Kent State for the first time at the 27th annual May 4 commemoration. In 1999, individual student markers were installed at the sites in the Prentice Hall parking lot where the four students were killed on May 4, 1970, and a portal website created.

A tribute band plays to the crowd
A man places flowers beside one of the markers
Candles are placed for the 1995 vigil
Ms. Vecchio, a survivor, hugs another woman
Tears are shed during the commemoration
A speaker addresses the crowd
A man points at the pagoda
A candle is held during a vigil
A woman reflects on the memorial
A crowd gathers for the commemoration
A choir sings during the commemoration
Candles are lit for the vigil
Students sit next to the Liberty Bell
Vecchio receives a hug during the commemoration
The Kent State University president holds a vigil
A student naps on the May 4 memorial
An interview is held
Daffodils surround the memorial
A student plays the violin in front of the memorial
A sea of umbrellas cover the grounds in front of Taylor Hall


In 2000, Kent State hosted the 30th commemoration, "Experiencing Democracy: Inquire, Learn, Reflect." The commemorative program included an international academic symposium, The Boundaries of Freedom of Expression and Order in a Democratic Society. The university announced its plans to host a permanent, annual symposium on democratic values to commemorate the events of May 4, 1970, and to learn from the past some important lessons for the future. The Kent State University Press published the proceeding of the symposium.

Miller's brother kneels in front of his spot
Two people share a vigil
A man weeps during a vigil
A march is held on May 4, 2000
The victory bell is rung
Emotions run high at the commemoration
Candles are lit during the commemoration


In February 2010, the National Register of Historic Places, the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation, added the site of the May 4, 1970, shootings at Kent State University to the list. The 45th Commemoration on May 4, 2015, at Kent State Commons included a keynote presentation by Dick Gregory, an influential comedian, civil rights activist and author. Kent State’s new President Beverly Warren, Paul Chappell and Ken Hammond, Ph.D., professor of history at New Mexico State University (and Students for a Democratic Society leader at Kent State from 1967-70) also spoke at the commemoration. In December 2016, Kent State’s May 4 site joined a much more select group as it was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. In 2018, Kent State hosted renowned journalist Dan Rather for its May 4 commemoration.

Members of Kent State's Greek Life hold a special commemoration
Older members of the community reflect
A memorial band plays at a commemoration
Kent State president Beverly Warren holds a vigil
A candlelit walk is held