Alan Canfora Bio

Alan Canfora is recognized as a leading expert regarding the Kent State tragedy of May 4, 1970, the history of American student activism, and political organizing. He has remained politically aware and active his entire adult life to the present day.

The son of a union leader in Akron, Ohio, Alan joined the anti-war movement during 1968-1969 as a member of Students for a Democratic Society at Kent State University (SDS). Brilliant leaders and militant members of Kent SDS inspired Alan and planted the 1969 seeds of anti-war rebellion which blossomed in May 1970 and culminated in an epic tragedy of a generation.

Alan Canfora descended into the maelstrom of violence. Desperation breeds desperadoes and Canfora evolved within a minority of Kent militants highly motivated to stop the controversial war.

Brutal war experiences described by working-class friends returned from Vietnam particularly inspired Alan’s anti-war motivations against the war. True war stories detailed unwinnable war, poor battlefield leadership and tactics, barbarous atrocities, fear, severe injuries and the horror of death.

Fatefully, one of Canfora’s childhood friends was killed in Vietnam. At the funeral of William Miles Caldwell on April, 24, 1970, Alan and several Kent comrades vowed to take their most militant anti-war actions “when the time is right” — to send an anti-message to President Nixon from Kent, Ohio.

Six days later, on April 30, Nixon announced his provocative decision to escalate the war and invade Cambodia with US troops. Anti-war student protests erupted nationwide but none so significant as the revolt May 1-4 in Kent, Ohio.

Alan Canfora was a prime mover among the hundreds of anti-war Kent State students who spontaneously revolted on May 1 and May 2 in downtown Kent and on the KSU campus until 1200 Ohio National Guardsmen occupied the Kent State campus and downtown Kent.

On May 4, Canfora was again a leading protester and confronted armed national guardsmen while waving a black flag of protest — a symbol of his anger and despair after his friend’s death in Vietnam. He was shot by a bullet through his wrist during 13 seconds of mayhem.

Alan has been Director of Kent May 4 Center in Kent, Ohio, since 1989. He is the library director at Akron Law Library since 2011 and Chairperson of Barberton Democratic Party in Ohio since 1992.

Alan Canfora earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Kent State University and imminently will publish his 1967-1970 memoir during early 2020.