Mapping May 4th, 1970 at Kent State: using spatial stories to build solidarity and reconciliation 50 years later

Authors: Sara Koopman*, Kent State University, Jennifer Mapes, Kent State University, Chris Willer , Kent State University, Robin Burkhardt, Kent State University
Topics: Human Rights, Cartography, Social Geography
Keywords: solidarity, reconciliation, mapping stories, apps, digital humanities, right to protest, human rights, peace
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Chairman's Boardroom, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


On May 4, 1970, at a student protest at Kent State University against the expansion of the Vietnam war into Cambodia, National Guard troops shot and killed four students and seriously wounded nine. Although this massacre is a symbol of the right to protest, some in the surrounding community still say the students ‘deserved it’– in part because of the protests in the days leading up to the event. The Guard never admitted to issuing an order to shoot, and no apology was ever issued. As we come up on the 50th anniversary of the event, we hope the renewed attention will provide an opening for reconciliation in what is again a highly polarized political context. We are mapping oral histories about it in several formats: kiosks, web, and an app. We aim to inspire ongoing dialogue by fostering more interaction with the various versions of what happened and where, not only at the site of the shooting but across campus and around town in the days leading up to and after the massacre. The app will offer both a walking tour and pop up notices when at certain sites, and will take audio and video recordings from users to add nuance to overlapping and sometimes differing narratives. The 50th commemoration will bring back to campus many who were present in 1970. Our hope is that the app will inspire more reflections from survivors – as well as more engagement by all with and across different perspectives on the event.

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