50 Years Ago: Remembering the Kent State Shootings

In looking back at the Kent State tragedy of May 4, 1970, when four students engaged in protest of the Vietnam War were shot and killed by members of the Ohio National Guard, it seems appropriate to reflect on the reaction at Wright State’s campus. As a fairly new university of mostly commuter students with a very young faculty, the response at WSU was somewhat unique from other college campuses.

While student life on the WSU campus in 1970 was fairly sedate, (some would say non-existent), a very vocal student community had begun to emerge, and campus protest activities, while smaller in scale, were fairly common. Due to the smaller size of the groups involved in campus protests activities, they tended to take on a more conversational, forum based format, and this was true also in the aftermath of the Kent State massacre.

After initial reactions of disbelief, grief, and anger, WSU students joined in a nation-wide student strike on college campuses in mourning the lost lives of the Kent State students and to condemn the actions of a state governor in the violent suppression of student protest. As student anger mounted and in an effort to avoid campus violence, Gary Hunt, WSU’s first student body president, with the assistance of faculty members, organized “A Day of Understanding” for the WSU campus on May 7: “I would recommend that we now, without delay, muster our energies to prevent violence here, and just as importantly, make Wright State a better place to be in these anxiety-ridden moments”.

An open microphone was set up on Founder’s Quadrangle at 10am, with different members of the campus community stepping up throughout the day to share their thoughts, including students, faculty, and administrators. A culminating activity for the day, orchestrated by Dr. Emil Kmetec of the Chemistry Department, was a letter writing campaign on the Quad for students to write to Governor Rhodes, which were all mailed directly to the governor at the end of the day’s activities.

While this is just a very small anecdote in remembrance of the May 4 tragedy at Kent State, it’s a meaningful and largely unknown story in the early history of WSU, and a way for us to look back on the 50th anniversary of May 4, 1970.

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Learn How to Start a Family Oral History Project & Celebrate Preservation Week

April 26-May 2, 2020

Recording the stories of our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other relatives and friends, can be a powerful way to capture history that otherwise would be lost. What better way to learn about our family history than through the voices and memories of those who lived it?  But if you’ve never done an oral history, you might wonder how to get started.

Get ready to be inspired to start your family oral history project with a free webinar on April 28 at 2 p.m. EST titled “Using Oral History to Tell Your Family Stories.”  Daniel Horowitz Garcia, a historian in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Regional Manager with StoryCorps in Atlanta, will present the webinar. It is geared for an audience with little or no training in oral history. You can learn more about the webinar and register at http://www.ala.org/alcts/confevents/upcoming/webinar/042820

The webinar is being offered in celebration of Preservation Week (April 26-May 2, 2020). If you can’t wait to learn more about starting a family oral history project and ways to preserve your family archives, check out Preservation Week’s web page with links to more resources that you can explore anytime at http://www.ala.org/alcts/preservationweek/howto/oral-history .

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The Pandemic Through Photos

In addition to diaries, we are collecting photographs of the Pandemic for our Document Your Story: COVID-19 Project. Photographs capture events, places, people, and objects in the moment and provide vital historical information just like diaries, letters, and other documents. Today our cellphones allow us to easily capture images as we travel our neighborhoods, visit stores, or walk in the park.

Below are galleries of photographs taken by SC&A archivists Lisa Rickey, Bill Stolz, and Toni Vanden Bos documenting life in the Miami Valley during the last month.

Photographs are powerful storytelling tools and help share what we are witnessing here in the Miami Valley during the Pandemic.

Be sure to take photos of what you see while you walk, shop, travel, or work and record the date and location. All of our photographs will be provide important information to the future generations that study the Pandemic.

If you are interested in donating photographs or other materials documenting your experiences during the COVID-19 Pandemic, please contact the SC&A staff at library-archives@wright.edu or visit our project page for more information.

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