In his talks, Tom Grace explores one of the more searing incidents of the Vietnam era of American history, the killing of four students and the wounding of nine others, including the speaker, by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University in May, 1970. In his recently published book, Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties, the speaker punctures a number of myths about the university and the incident among them – that the campus was without an activist tradition, that the National Guard members were young and inexperienced, and that the killings led to an end to the era of mass protest.
Taking issue with these myths, Grace shows how Kent State was not a tragic anomaly. Rather, the campus movement was grounded in a tradition of activism extending back to labor battles and civil rights protests of the 1950s. Thus the fatal shootings at Kent State were the culmination of a conflict between the forces of radicalism and repression that unfolded throughout the decade of the 1960s.
A 1972 graduate of Kent State University, Grace earned a PhD after many years as a social worker and union representative. He is an adjunct professor of American history at Erie Community College. Along with his talk, he can show excerpts from “Fire In the Heartland,” a new full-length documentary about Kent State by Daniel Miller, a University of Oregon Journalism professor. It tells the story of the May 4th shootings by showing the essential context of the Civil Rights/Anti-War struggle and its influential leadership on Kent State’s campus.