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Kent State in Our World

Immediately following the campus shooting, Neil Young wrote the song Ohio in tribute to the students killed and wounded at Kent State. This song and Kent State would become a tragically iconic episode in the collective history of the United States.

Lyrics from the song Ohio by Neil Young:

 

Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming

We're finally on our own

This summer I hear the drumming

Four dead in Ohio …

Neil Young’s Ohio - Live (1971) re-released in March 2021 on Young Shakespeare

In 1970, the Massacre at Kent State Seized the Nation

More than 50 years ago — nine months after the birth of Woodstock and six months after the 1969 moratoriums when millions of young Americans marched against the Vietnam War — the May 1970 campus massacres at Kent State and Jackson State traumatized a generation of American anti-war protesters. Directly following the killings, students rose up at campuses across the country in the largest national student protest in U.S. history.

Every young person back then carries a Kent State recollection, remembering how it dramatically affected their lives and left an enduring imprint on their relationship with the U.S. government. 

Even though more than five decades have passed, we hope millions of peaceful people around the world who opposed the Vietnam War, who felt it could have been them killed protesting war, will pause to remember where they were on May 4, 1970. Let us endeavor to protect protesters in America and reclaim the right to protest safely today.

Honoring the Killed

Allison Beth Krause, age 19 - 343 ft (105m) - fatal left chest wound, died hours later

Jeffrey Glenn Miller, age 20 - 265 ft (81m) - shot through mouth, killed instantly

Sandra Lee Scheuer, age 20 - 390 ft (120m) - fatal neck wound, died minutes later from loss of blood

William Knox Schroeder, age 19 - 382 ft (116m) - fatal chest wound, died in hospital undergoing surgery

Honoring the Wounded

Joseph J. Lewis, Jr. - 71 ft (22m) - shot twice, right abdomen, left lower leg

John R. Cleary - 110 ft (34m) - upper left chest wound

Thomas M. Grace - 225 ft (69m) - shot in left ankle

Alan M. Canfora - 225 ft (69m) - shot in right wrist

Dean R. Kahler - 300 ft (91m) - back wound fracturing vertebrae, permanently paralyzed from chest down

Douglas A. Wrentmore - 329 ft (100m) - shot in right knee

James D. Russell - 375 ft (114m) - shot in right thigh and right forehead 

Robert F. Stamps - 495 ft (151m) - shot in right buttock

Donald S. MacKenzie - 750 ft (230m) - neck wound

 

Kent State, a Seminal Event in American History

 

When the images of four students lying dead on the Kent State campus were released in the news, they electrified the nation. Accounts of the most important events in the latter half of the 20th century frequently name Kent State as a watershed point in American history. The photos have become tragically iconic, a rebuke to a country that prides itself on democratic representation and civil liberties.

John P. Filo’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of the 1970 Kent State massacre, Jeffrey Miller and Mary Ann Vecchio pictured

John P. Filo’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of the 1970 Kent State massacre with Jeffrey Miller and Mary Ann Vecchio

The Poem, Flowers and Bullets 

 

Days following the Kent State massacre, Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko wrote “Flowers & Bullets” for Kent State University student protester Allison Krause. Less than 24 hours before her killing on May 4th, Allison asked Ohio National Guardsmen, “What’s the matter with peace? Flowers are better than bullets.” In May 1970 City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco published and introduced Yevtushenko’s poetry to a generation of peaceful American readers.

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Flowers & Bullets, by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

 

(English translation by Anthony Kahn)

 

Of course:

Bullets don't like people

    who love flowers,

They're jealous ladies, bullets,

    short on kindness.

Allison Krause, nineteen years old,

    you're dead

for loving flowers.

 

When, thin and open as the pulse

    of conscience,

you put a flower in a rifle's mouth

    and said,

"Flowers are better than bullets,"

    that

was pure hope speaking.

 

Give no flowers to a state

    that outlaws truth;

such states reciprocate

    with cynical, cruel gifts,

and your gift, Allison Krause,

was the bullet

    that blasted the flower.

 

Let every apple orchard blossom black,

    black in mourning.

Ah, how the lilac smells!

    You're without feeling.

Nothing, Nixon said it:

    "You're a bum."

All the dead are bums.

    It's not their crime.

You lie in the grass,

    a melting candy in your mouth,

done with dressing in new clothes,

    done with books.

 

You used to be a student.

      You studied fine arts.

But other arts exist,

      of blood and terror,

and headsmen with a genius for the axe.

 

Who was Hitler?

      A cubist of gas chambers.

In the name of all flowers

      I curse your works,

you architect of lies,

      maestros of murder!

Mothers of the world whisper

      "O God, God!"

and seers are afraid

      to look ahead.

Death dances rock-and-roll upon the bones

      of Vietnam, Cambodia -

On what stage is it booked to dance tomorrow?

 

Rise up, Tokyo girls,

       Roman boys,

take up your flowers

       against the common foe.

Blow the world's dandelions up

       into a blizzard!

Flowers, to war!

       Punish the punishers!

Tulip after tulip,

       carnation after carnation

rip out of your tidy beds in anger,

choke every lying throat

       with earth and root!

You, jasmine, clog

       the spinning blades of mine-layers.

 

Boldy,

   block the cross-hair sights,

   drive your sting into the lenses,

       nettles!

Rise up, lily of the Ganges,

       lotus of the Nile,

stop the roaring props

   of planes pregnant

       with the death of children!

Roses, don't be proud

    to find yourselves sold

        at higher prices.

Nice as it is to touch a tender cheek,

thrust a sharper thorn a little deeper

    into the fuel tanks of bombers.

 

Of course:

    Bullets are stronger than flowers.

Flowers aren't enough to overwhelm them.

    Stems are too fragile,

    petals are poor armor.

But a Vietnam girl of Allison's age,

    taking a gun in her hands

is the armed flower

    of the people's wrath!

If even flowers rise,

    then we've had enough

    of playing games with history.

 

Young America,

    tie up the killer's hands.

Let there be an escalation of truth

to overwhelm the escalating lie

    crushing people's lives!

Flowers, make war!

    Defend what's beautiful!

Drown the city streets and country roads

    like the flood of an army advancing

and in the ranks of people and flowers

    arise, murdered Allison Krause,

Immortal of the age,

    Thorn-Flower of protest!