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Kent State University set to mark 54th anniversary of May 4 shootings

An Ohio Historical Marker for Kent State University: May 4, 1970, is to the side of Taylor Hall and the May 4th Visitors Center. The sign has the history of the lead up and events that happened on May 4, 1970, that caused the shooting and killing of four and nine wounded.
Alexandra Golden
Ideastream Public Media
An Ohio Historical Marker for Kent State University: May 4, 1970, by Taylor Hall describes the events that led up to the shooting where the Ohio National Guard killed four and wounded nine.

Kent State University is preparing to mark the 54th anniversary of the May 4, 1970, shooting of 13 students.

Events are planned from May 2-4 to remember the day when Ohio National Guard troops, which had been called to respond to anti-Vietnam war protests, opened fire on unarmed student demonstrators on the Kent State campus.

Four students, Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, William Schroeder and Sandra Scheuer, were killed and nine others were wounded. No one has ever been held responsible for what happened.

There are several events planned for the 2024 commemoration, including musical performances at the Kent Stage, a lecture and the annual candlelight vigil.

Roseann “Chic” Canfora, chair of the May 4 commemoration committee, witnessed the May 4 shootings that wounded her brother, Alan Canfora.

She said one of the driving forces in planning each commemoration is finding ways to make the events engaging for a wide audience.

“Our challenge as planners of May 4 commemorations the last 54 years has been, not only to find appropriate ways to remember the students who died and those who were injured that day, but also to find ways to make May 4 meaningful for current students today,” she said.

The actions on May 4 were not simply about protest, Canfora said, who added she thinks it’s important to uphold the role of college students as the “conscience of America.”

“It’s on college campuses where students daily dream and plan for a future for themselves and for others,” she said. “Students have historically been at the forefront of change.”

There’s a lot being done this year to raise awareness surrounding the May 4 shootings, said Neil Cooper, the director of the School of Peace and Conflict Studies at Kent State. One initiative involves inviting delegates from Chonnam National University in South Korea to the May 4 commemoration.

“That may seem an odd thing to do in the context of May 4, but in South Korea, they experienced an event that was not dissimilar to May 4, which began on May 18 in 1980 when student demonstrators were protesting the imposition of martial law," he said.

This year’s Jerry M. Lewis May 4 Lecture Series, scheduled for May 3, will feature Chris Post, a professor in the department of geography, according to Canfora.

“Dr. Chris Post will be presenting, developing and interpreting the wounded student markers at Kent State,” she said. “These May 4 related themes are presented in that forum in an academic way in the same way that students are planning activities that are more centered on current student activism today, which is always an important part of each commemoration arising.”

Canfora said she’s honored to be a part of the planning of the May 4 commemorations each year, having witnessed it firsthand.

“Especially around May 4, it’s inspiring for me to see students equally as engaged today as they were 54 years ago in dreaming of and advocating for a better world,” she said.

Corrected: May 1, 2024 at 4:01 PM EDT
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the May 4 commemorations would include a visit from a delegation of faculty from Tottenham National University in South Korea. The delegation is from Chonnam National University.

An earlier version of this story stated 13 student demonstrators were shot on May 4, 1970. In fact, some of the students were not protesters.

An earlier version of this story reported nine students were shot by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970. It was 13.
Janson McNair was an intern at Ideastream Public Media for the spring 2024 semester.