The Kent State Guardsmen Oral History Project, an award-winning endeavor that recently received grant funding, is continuing to seek former guardsmen who deployed to Kent in May 1970 when the shootings occurred.
“These men were castigated and vilified in the aftermath, and so understandably, they didn’t talk about it publicly,” says David Strittmatter, Ph.D., Ohio Northern University assistant professor of history and project organizer. “Time has a healing effect. We’re wanting to know: How has this followed you? How has it affected your life, if at all?”
Knowing that many Ohio National Guardsmen who were there that fateful day still live within the state, particularly in Northeast Ohio, Strittmatter is making a public appeal that he hopes will result in additional interviews. So far, 12 have interviewed for the oral history project, which seeks to impartially present and preserve recollections and memories of those guardsmen who remained silent for decades.
Ohio Northern students are directly involved with formulating questions and conducting the interviews. Interview excerpts can be found on the project’s website: KentGuardVoices1970.com.
For a 2021 story, Strittmatter said the project has revealed new insight that provides greater context to this complex tragedy.
For his efforts to fill some of the factual gaps that remain regarding the Kent State shootings, Strittmatter will receive the Ohio Academy of History’s Public History Award at an April 9 ceremony to be held at the University of Akron. He has also been selected to serve as a history consultant on a documentary detailing the Kent State shootings, which is being directed by two-time Oscar winner Barbara Kopple.
Recently, the Kent State Guardsmen Oral History Project received a $3,000 grant from Baylor University’s Institute For Oral History to keep the effort going.
If you are a former Ohio National Guardsman who was deployed to Kent State University on May 4, 1970 and would like to share your story, or if you know a former Guardsman who was there that day who might like to provide input, email David Strittmatter at firstname.lastname@example.org.