Libraries release audio from May 4 shootings


Kent State students view the wall of newspapers and articles inside the May 4 Visitor Center that showed immediate reaction and repercussion to the May 4, 1970 shooting.

Kent State University Special Collections and Archives’ digital repository made 119 audio recordings regarding the May 4, 1970, shootings and its aftermath accessible to the public. 

According to the press release, some of the recordings available are “radio call-in forums, a speech by Kent State President Robert I. White the day after the shootings, a press conference with six students who met with President Richard M. Nixon just days after the shootings, the Scranton Commission hearings and a speech made by Dick Gregory at the Kent State Memorial Service in 1971.”

“With the 50th anniversary of May 4 slowly approaching and knowing we still had so much content that hasn’t been made accessible to the public, we really needed to amp up our efforts to start to digitalize some of these recording that have preservation issues,” said Lae’l Hughes-Watkins, Kent State’s university archivist. 

The digitalization project started in spring 2015 when the University Libraries were awarded a $2,000 Ohio Archives Grant for the proposal, “Providing Access to the Kent State Shootings Audio Archive,” prepared by University Libraries’ faculty members Cara Gilgenbach, Virginia Dessler and Lae’l Hughes-Watkins.

“Although many of the recordings have been in the May 4 collection and have been accessed on a case-by-case basis, this grant opportunity provided us with a way to get all of the reels digitized in one large group instead of in a piecemeal way,” said Cara Gilgenbach, head of University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives.

Hughes-Watkins said that this kind of access to content has a lot of value for people that want to do research and understand more about the shootings. 

“Many of the recordings in this particular group were made in the days, weeks, and months immediately after the shootings took place,” Gilgenbach said. “They give a lot of insight into what was going on at Kent State during this critical time period and reflect student, faculty, administrator and community responses to this event.”

The digitalization project was finished in December 2015, but the university libraries’ is promoting the project now, to coincide with the 46 year anniversary of the shooting. 

Samantha Meisenburg is the veteran affairs reporter for The Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected].