When we hear about deadly protests on college campuses, most Americans think of the killing of four students at Kent State University in Ohio in May 1970. The slaying of the students by members of the National Guard has been immortalized by the song “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. However, this is not the only killing of American students by law enforcement during May 1970. It is just the most famous.
On May 15, 1970, at Jackson State College (now University) in Jackson, Mississippi, police fired upon a group of protesting students at the predominantly black college, killing two. The college had long played host to racial tensions between the (mostly) black students and the white residents of Jackson. On May 14, 1970, tensions escalated as students protested the American invasion of Cambodia as part of the war effort in Vietnam. The protests turned violent as students (and non-students) threw rocks at the police who were trying to break up the rally. The police advanced towards a all-women’s dorm on the campus and in response to the rocks being thrown opened fire on the students. The dorm was struck by approximately 400 rounds. At the end of the chaos, two men lay dead: Phillip L. Gibbs, a junior at Jackson State, and James Earl Green, a high school senior from Jackson. The deaths of these two young men ought to be remembered along with the four white students who were killed less than two weeks earlier at Kent State.