Historical Impact, Kent State 1970


According to a national scientific study by the Urban Institute in May of 1970, the Kent State massacre was the single factor which triggered the only national student strike in US history. Over four million students protested and over 850 US colleges and universities shut down during the effective student strike.

President Nixon was pushed to the point of physical and emotional collapse and he promptly withdrew his US military invasion of Cambodia. The tide of public opinion shifted against the war in Vietnam. The historical impact of Kent State and the national student strike of May, 1970, remains recognized as crucial in US history.

Dr. George Katsiaficas of the Wentworth Institute in Boston is the leading expert about the impact of the Kent State massacre and the national student strike of May, 1970. He has written the introduction to my soon-published memoir available online here in 2007.

Here are key facts from the research of Dr. George Katsiaficas regarding the historical impact of Kent State and the national student strike of May 1970:

  • The largest strike in American history occurred after the Kent tragedy;
  • Over 100 American campuses closed on strike each day for the remainder of the school week after the Kent massacre;
  • Ultimately, nearly 5,000,000 American students joined the national student strike;
  • More than 500 American colleges & universities were closed by mid-May;
  • Over 900 colleges & universities closed before the end of May, 1970;
  • Approximately 80% of US colleges & universities experienced protests;
  • Approximately 175,000 faculty members joined the protests;
  • Over 35,000 national guardsmen were called into action in 16 states;
  • 30 ROTC buildings were burned or bombed by students prior to May 16, 1970;
  • At the University of Wisconsin alone, 27 firebombings were reported;
  • In May, 1970, across America, there were more firebombings & arsons than in any month since those government statistics began;
  • Highways, expressways, city streets & railroad tracks were barricaded across America;
  • On May 9, 1970, over 150,000 protesters, mostly students, converged on Washington, DC,. President Nixon, Henry Kissinger & others were kept in the White House protected by armed military guards with machine guns. The White House was surrounded & protected by a cordon of bumper-to-bumper buses;
  • On May 16, 1970, BUSINESS WEEK magazine warned:”This is a dangerous situation. It threatens the whole economic & social structure of the nation.”
  • President Nixon’s memoir reveals the days after Kent State as “…among the darkest” days of his presidency;
  • Former Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren said Kent State sparked the worst American crisis since the Civil War;
  • 100 art museums & galleries closed in solidarity with the student strike;
  • According to the WALL STREET JOURNAL, over 500 US GI’s deserted each day in May, 1970;
  • According to THE LONDON EXPRESS & US military intelligence, each week in May, 1970, over 60 US troops in Vietnam (mostly African-Americans) crossed over & joined enemy forces–the Viet Cong;
  • After the Kent massacre, entire companies of US troops in Vietnam refused orders to invade Cambodia;
  • In solidarity with the US students, numerous US soldiers wore black armbands and refused to fight any longer in Vietnam;
  • Combat refusal became so common that entire companies were established in Vietnam to include the many non-fighting soldiers;
  • Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a group of anti-war veterans returned from Vietnam, increased their membership by 50% in May, 1970–they led many campus protests & strikes after Kent State;
  • On Armed Forces Day, May 16,1970, there were marches, rallies & rock festivals at 22 US military bases involving 43 different anti-war veterans’ groups;
  • Military leaders cancelled Armed Forces Day events at 28 other bases due to planned anti-war demonstrations;
  • 1,000 marched through the streets near Fort Hood, Texas, shouting “Avenge Kent State!”
  • Only a few days after Kent State, President Nixon limited the US invasion of Cambodia to 35 kilometers inside Cambodia & two months maximum duration;
  • Within two months the US troops withdrew from Cambodia;
  • On August 5, 1970, Black Panther Party leader Huey Newton was released from prison;
  • Only a few months after Kent State, Congress rescinded the Gulf of Tonkin resolution authorizing US forces in southeast Asia;
  • Congress passed the WAR POWERS ACT preventing the President from invading a country without the approval of Congress;
  • According to Nixon’s aide H.R. Haldeman, “Kent State marked the beginning of Nixon’s downhill slide toward Watergate”;
  • In May, 1970, after the national turmoil sparked by Kent State, Nixon began his “enemies list” & started the paranoid campaigns that led to his resignation;
  • In June, 1970, Nixon assembled his intelligence, military & law enforcement team to address his perceived threats from the anti-war & student activists, members of Congress, media personalities, authors, & even Hollywood celebrities;
  • The abuses of Nixon’s repressive teams of agents & provocateurs led to Watergate;
  • The anti-war & counter-cultural movements still blossomed;
  • The first gay-pride week was launched in New York on June 22, 1970, and the Gay Liberation Front sponsored their first national conference in San Francisco in August, 1970;
  • Radical feminists emerged strongly & the women’s movement blossomed in the summer of 1970–their symbol of the clenched fist inside the biological sign for women was created for their August 27, 1970, national women’s strike;
  • On August 29, 1970, the Chicano Moratorium of Mexican-Americans against the war was viciously attacked by Los Angeles police–three died & hundreds were injured and arrested;
  • In September 1970, the Black Panthers sponsored a convention that attracted over 10,000 activists from various US nationalities & issues;
  • Public opinion polls indicated the tide of public opinion shifted against the war;
  • Nixon and the Pentagon were forced to seriously de-escalate the war, remove US troops & negotiate peace in Southeast Asia;
  • The voting age was soon reduced from 21 to 18 in America for the first time.