The Day the 60s Died, a PBS documentary about “the turbulent spring of 1970,” recounts the Kent State and Jackson State massacres of anti-war college students by the Ohio National Guard and the Mississippi State Police.
In 1970, the year I graduated from high school, the anti-war movement in the United States was practically all we talked about. Reading former Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger’s book The Burglary, I am reminded of what a crazy time it was.
In March 1970, California governor Ronald Reagan called for a bloodbath to silence anti-war protestors.
In April 1970, President Nixon announced the massive bombing of Vietnam would be expanded to Cambodia.
In May 1970, Ohio governor James Rhodes declared martial law at Kent State University, resulting in four students killed and nine injured by National Guard gunfire as students assembled in peaceful protest. Ten days after the Kent State massacre, local and state police in Mississippi fired 460 rounds at a student dormitory on the Jackson State University campus, killing two, wounding twelve.
The Friday after the Kent State shootings, as they sang at a peaceful noon vigil called for by Mayor John Lindsay to honor the slain Kent State students, scores of students in New York City were bludgeoned with crow bars by construction workers. Twenty-two of the workers who beat the students were honored weeks later by President Nixon at the White House.
The revolutionary 1960s were challenging for us as American teenagers, and bewildering for our parents. Feminism, racial equality, and rejection of religion set us apart from their generation. Social phenomena that unfolded during my high school years alone (1967–70) were astounding: