It was forty years ago today that this shocking image first entered into the consciousness of America. In response to President Nixon's widening of the Vietnam War by bombing Cambodia, students across the nation organized protests, as they had done many times in the years before. This time, however, the peaceful protest escalated to rock tossing and ended in a hail of bullets. The Ohio National Guard was called upon to quell the unruly protesters on campus but ended up opening fire and killing four students and wounding many others.
I wonder how the incident at Kent State forty years ago today can help us understand the increasing unrest we see in our cities today (most recently in Baltimore). Will a generational divide always be at the heart of our nation's political story? Will those who seek power have to bargain, cajole, and/or resort to force to wrest it from those who control our politics today? As George Orwell once wrote: "Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present now, controls the past."
Below are two primary source letters sent to Kent State in reaction to the shooting. The generational divide is front and center in the messages conveyed by each respective author.
How would you use these sources in your classroom?
How can these documents (and the Kent St. shooting) help spark dialogue about current events?
Why isn't Jackson State cited or referred to as often as the events at Kent State?