“Ohio” is a protest song written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970, and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was released as a single, backed with Stephen Stills “Find the Cost of Freedom,” peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although a live version of the song was included on the group’s 1971 double album Four Way Street, the studio versions of both songs did not appear on an LP until the group’s compilation So Far was released in 1974. The song also appeared on the Neil Young compilation album Decade, released in 1977.
On May 4, l970 members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Kent State University demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine Kent State students. The impact of the shootings was dramatic. The event triggered a nationwide student strike that forced hundreds of colleges and universities to close. H. R. Haldeman, a top aide to President Richard Nixon, suggests the shootings had a direct impact on national politics. In The Ends of Power, Haldeman (1978) states that the shootings at Kent State began the slide into Watergate, eventually destroying the Nixon administration. Beyond the direct effects of the May 4th, the shootings have certainly come to symbolize the deep political and social divisions that so sharply divided the country during the Vietnam War era.
In the nearly three decades since May 4, l970, a voluminous literature has developed analyzing the events of May 4th and their aftermath. Some books were published quickly, providing a fresh but frequently superficial or inaccurate analysis of the shootings (e.g., Eszterhas and Roberts, 1970; Warren, 1970; Casale and Paskoff, 1971; Michener, 1971; Stone, 1971; Taylor et al., 1971; and Tompkins and Anderson, 1971). Numerous additional books have been published in subsequent years (e.g., Davies, 1973; Hare, 1973; Hensley and Lewis, 1978; Kelner and Munves, 1980; Hensley, 1981; Payne, 1981; Bills, 1988; and Gordon, 1997). These books have the advantage of a broader historical perspective than the earlier books, but no single book can be considered the definitive account of the events and aftermath of May 4, l970 at Kent State University.
In May 1970, at Kent State University in Ohio, National Guardsmen confronted student antiwar protesters with a tear gas barrage. Soon afterward, with no provocation, soldiers opened fire into a group of fleeing students. Four young people were killed, shot in the back, including two women who had been walking to class.” (Norton et al., 1994, p. 732) Unfortunately, this short description contains four factual errors: some degree of provocation did exist; the students were not fleeing when the Guard initially opened fire; only one of the four students who died, William Schroeder, was shot in the back; and one female student, Sandy Schreuer, had been walking to class, but the other female, Allison Krause, had been part of the demonstration.
This article is an attempt to deal with the historical inaccuracies that surround the May 4th shootings at Kent State University by providing high school social studies teachers with a resource to which they can turn if they wish to teach about the subject or to involve students in research on the issue. Our approach is to raise and provide answers to twelve of the most frequently asked questions about May 4 at Kent State. We will also offer a list of the most important questions involving the shootings which have not yet been answered satisfactorily. Finally, we will conclude with a brief annotated bibliography for those wishing to explore the subject further.
The decision to bring the Ohio National Guard onto the Kent State University campus was directly related to decisions regarding American involvement in the Vietnam War. Richard Nixon was elected president of the United States in 1968 based in part on his promise to bring an end to the war in Vietnam. During the first year of Nixon’s presidency, America’s involvement in the war appeared to be winding down. In late April of 1970, however, the United States invaded Cambodia and widened the Vietnam War. This decision was announced on national television and radio on April 30, l970 by President Nixon, who stated that the invasion of Cambodia was designed to attack the headquarters of the Viet Cong, which had been using Cambodian territory as a sanctuary.
Protests occurred the next day, Friday, May 1, across United States college campuses where anti-war sentiment ran high. At Kent State University, an anti-war rally was held at noon on the Commons, a large, grassy area in the middle of campus which had traditionally been the site for various types of rallies and demonstrations.
Read the complete story:
[via John de Hoog]