Kent State Shootings: Selected Books

Special Collections and Archives

Kent State Shootings: Selected Books

Special Collections and Archives

Kent State Shootings: Selected Books

May 4 Annotated Bibliography

Selected May 4 Books

Updated by Cara Gilgenbach, June 2019; Last Updated: May 2022


PLEASE NOTE: This bibliography is intended to be inclusive of all major books published about the Kent State shootings, with some additional titles that can be useful for inquiries related to the shootings. Inclusion on this list does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement of the books in question. Users should carefully assess the content of these works before utilizing for curricular or scholarly purposes. Linked titles below, provide the KentLINK catalog record for that item in Special Collections and Archives. Additional copies might be available in the University Libraries' collections. Please ask Special Collections and Archives staff for assistance in locating needed books.

Adams, John P., At the Heart of the Whirlwind. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.

From publisher's description: "A first-hand report on a new Christian ministry--the role of healing meditation in social conflict. Based on John Adams' own dramatic experience from Resurrection City, through Kent State, to Wounded Knee."

Agte, Barbara Becker. Kent Letters: Students' Responses to May 1970 Massacre. Deming, NM : Bluwaters Press, [2012].

"Kent Letters is a collection of writings by students who were on the Kent State University campus when the Ohio National Guard fired upon unarmed students."

Akron Beacon Journal. May 4, 1970: The Kent State Story in Pictures. Battle Ground, WA: Pediment Publishing, 2020.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Akron Beacon Journal presents a commemorative look back at events before, during, and after the Kent State shootings.

Anderson, Maggie and Alex Gildzen, eds. A Gathering of Poets. Kent: Kent State University Press, 1992.

In 1990, poets from around the country were called to gather on May 3-4, 1990 in Kent, Ohio to commemorate May 4, 1970. Poets who were unable to attend the gathering sent in poems to be read. This book is an anthology of poems selected from those contributed to the gathering.

Barbato, Carole A., Laura L. Davis, and Mark F. Seeman. This We Know : A Chronology of the Shootings at Kent State, May 1970. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2012.

A concise summary of the events leading up to, during, and the immediate aftermath of the Kent State shootings.

Backderf, Derf. Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio. Abrams ComicArts: April 2020.

From publisher's blurb: "Using the journalism skills he employed on My Friend Dahmer and Trashed, Backderf has conducted extensive interviews and research to explore the lives of these four young people and the events of those four days in May, when the country seemed on the brink of tearing apart."

Bills, Scott., ed. Kent State/May 4: Echoes Through a Decade. Kent: Kent State University Press, 1988.

Through a series of essays, this book provides town and gown reactions to May 4th. Not only do the selection of articles give insight into the events of May 4, 1970, but there is also a focus on the aftermath. Articles discuss the "Kent 25" as well as the Gym Controversy and legal proceedings. Authors include prominent Kent residents, students, and faculty, as well as a former university President, an ACLU lawyer, and other outside scholars. Includes annotated bibliography.

Casale, Ottavio M. and Louis Paskoff, eds. The Kent Affair: Documents and Interpretations. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971.

A mixed collection of documents, including reprints of newspaper articles and excerpts from some of the "official reports." Interpretations or reactions include Letters to the Editor and letters sent to President White. With the exception of the preface, there is no interpretation on the part of the authors, rather, they let their collection of documents speak for itself.

Davies, Peter and The Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. The Truth about Kent State: A Challenge to the American Conscience. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1973.

Through detailed analysis, Davies et. al., argues that there might have been a conspiracy among the Guardsmen on Blanket Hill to shoot. Davies' well documented argument for a grand jury led in part to the Justice Department's decision to reopen the case. Includes photographic sequence of May 4, with accompanying analysis of the photograph and its context.

Erenrich, Susan J. The Cost of Freedom: Voicing a Movement After Kent State 1970. Kent: Kent State University Press, 2020.

From publisher's description: "The Cost of Freedom: Voicing a Movement after Kent State 1970 is a multi-genre collection describing the May 4, 1970, shootings at Kent State University, the aftermath, and the impact on wider calls for peace and justice."

Eszterhas, Joe and Michael D. Roberts. Thirteen Seconds: Confrontation at Kent. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1970.

Authored by two Cleveland Plain Dealer reporters, the book describes the events of early May, 1970 and includes chapters about Allison, Jeff, Sandy, Bill, General Del Corso, and Governor Rhodes.

Giles, Bob. When Truth Mattered: The Kent State Shootings 50 Years Later. Traverse City, MI: Mission Point Press, 2020.

From press release: "Giles was managing editor of the Akron Beacon Journal on May 4, 1970. He takes you inside the turmoil and drama of the newsroom on that day and ensuing days. Initial wire service reports were counter to what the Beacon Journal staff was reporting and yet their narrative prevailed—all the way to a Pulitzer Prize."

Gordon, William. Four Dead in Ohio: Was There a Conspiracy at Kent State? Laguna Hills: North Ridge, 1995.

Note: This book was originally published under the title, The Fourth of May: Killings and Coverups at Kent State. Also released in 2019 in an expanded ebook edition. Gordon, a journalist and author who has investigated May 4, 1970 through research and over 200 interviews, sets out to answer the question in his subtitle "Was There a Conspiracy at Kent State?" He concludes that there was no conspiracy, but notes that "only the Guardsmen who were on Blanket Hill know what prompted them to open fire..."

Grace, Thomas M. Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, [2016].

Grace, a casualty of the Kent State shootings, places this event within a long history of student protests and the labor activism going back to the 1950s. Grace's book is based on extensive primary source research.

Grant, Edward, and Michael Hill. I Was There: What Really Went On at Kent State. Lima: C.S.S Publishing Co., Inc., 1974.

This is the only book written by National Guardsmen. Although Grant and Hill were in Kent, they were not on Blanket Hill and did not see the shooting. Includes interviews. Defends Guard actions with the discredited Portage County Grand Jury Report.

Green, Gerald. Not in Vain. New York: D.I. Fine, 1984.

A roman à clef novel exploring a woman grieving over her son's death during a campus demonstration.

Hall, Daryl. Flashback: A Young Man’s Search for Truth About the Kent State Shootings. Printed by MLJ Press, 2019

Hall, a 1974 Kent State graduate, starts his narrative as he learns about the Kent State shootings while a high school senior. He had signed a letter of intent to play football at Kent State in the coming fall. According to the author, "[w]hile the shooting aftermath is the main theme of the book, I also share stories during my four years at Kent State, which include the Vietnam War, the impeachment of President Nixon, college life, music of the time and KSU football."

Hassler, David. May 4th Voices. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, [2013].

May 4th voices is based on the Kent State Shootings Oral History Project. The play tells the story of May 4th and its aftermath. See also the companion Teachers' Resource Book by John Morris, listed below.

Hensley, Thomas R. The Kent State Incident: Impact of Judicial Process on Public Attitudes. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1981.

Through detailed analysis, Dr. Hensley explores the perceptions, support, and attitudes of students and community members as a result of the trials surrounding the events of May 4, 1970.

Hensley, Thomas R. and Jerry M. Lewis, eds. Kent State and May 4th: A Social Science Perspective. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company; Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1978; 2000; 2010 (and other editions).

Primarily aimed at social scientists, with essays demonstrating the use of social science theories to understand the issues involved in May 4. Students and others interested in learning more about May 4 will also gain from reading this book. Includes an excellent historical narrative giving an overview the events of May 1-4 as well as essays on the legal aftermath and gym controversy.

Hildebrand, William H. A Most Noble Enterprise: The Story of Kent State University, 1910-2010. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2009.

The centennial history of Kent State University, this book includes a chapter about the shootings and coverage of the aftermath of this event on the University.

Hildebrand, William H., Dean H. Keller, and Anita D. Herington, eds. A Book of Memories: Kent State University, 1910-1992. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1993.

A photo-rich history of Kent State University. It includes a chapter on the Kent State shootings.

Holt, Jerry. The Killing of Strangers: a Novel. Lancaster, Ohio: Lucky Press, 2006.

The Ohio-based novel focuses on varied mysteries surrounding the Kent State shootings.

Jedick, Peter. Hippies. Berkeley, CA: Creative Arts Book Company, 2001

A novel set in Kent, Ohio, during the 1969-70 school year. The novel's protagonist is sharing an off-campus duplex, looking to find true love and romance, when "anti-Vietnam War protests spin out of control" (from publisher's blurb). The novel was first self-published by Jedick in 1998.

Kelner, Joseph and James Munves. The Kent State Coverup. New York: Harper and Row, 1980.

Chief trial counsel for the plaintiffs in the 1975 litigation, Kelner describes in detail the legal battle and his part in it.

Means, Howard. 67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence. Boston, MA : Da Capo Press, [2016].

Provides a history of the Kent State shootings, utilizing the Kent State Shootings Oral History Project interviews, other interviews, and other historical materials as sources.

Michener, James. Kent State: What Happened and Why. New York: Random House, 1971.

Concludes that "[t]here is no acceptable proof of collusion on the part of officers or men to account for that sudden and dramatic turn of 135 degrees before firing, but it seems likely that some kind of rough verbal agreement had been reached among the troops when they clustered on the playing field." Probably the most recognized book on May 4, 1970, reactions to the book have varied. While most agree that the book gives a good sense of what was happening, two university professors did a study of the book, noting that many people were misquoted.

Morris, John L., ed. A Teacher's Resource Book for May 4th Voices: Kent State, 1970: A Play by David Hassler: Teaching History and Social Justice in the Classroom. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, [2013].

A copublication of the Kent Historical Society and The Kent State University Press, this guide was "Created to supplement May 4th Voices, a play based on the 1970 tragedy, A Teacher’s Resource Book for May 4th Voices: Kent State, 1970 explains how real teachers in real classrooms have adapted the play to use in various pedagogical situations and levels of instruction." (KSU Press Web Catalog)

O'Neil, Robert M., Morris, John P., and Raymond Mack. No Heroes No Villains. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1972.

Aimed at faculty and administrators, this book focuses on both Kent State and Jackson State as academic institutions and "concentrates upon the implications of the student deaths and subsequent events for the future of academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic governance."

Payne, J. Gregory. Mayday: Kent State. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 1981.

Divided into three parts. The first section of the book, entitled "The Event," provides a chronology and historical context for May 4, 1970. Written in 1981, the book looks at the 10 year aftermath. "The People," looks at everyone from the families, victims, and guardsmen to photographers and artists. Finally the books ends with a section on "The Movie" (the NBC docudrama, Kent State) for which Payne served as a historical consultant.

Perlman, Sandra. Nightwalking: Voices from Kent State. Kent: Franklin Mills Press, 1995.

Sandra Perlman is the creator and director of the Oral History project at Kent State. The Oral History project allows people to record their memories of May 4, 1970 for posterity. Those voices were the influence for this play. As Perlman notes "[n]one of these stories is pure fact, though none is purely fiction."

Ruffner, Howard. Moments of Truth: A Photographer's Experience of Kent State 1970. Kent: The Kent State University Press, 2019.

From publisher's description: "A student journalist's photographic memoir of events surrounding the 1970 Kent State shootings...Here, in Moments of Truth: A Photographer's Experience of Kent State 1970, Ruffner not only reproduces a collection of nearly 150 of his photographs--many never before published--but also offers a stirring narrative in which he revisits his work and attempts to further examine these events and his own experience of them. It is, indeed, an intensely personal journal that he invites us to share."

Shriver, Phillip R. The Years of Youth: Kent State University, 1910-1960. Kent: Kent State University Press, 1960.

A history of Kent State University from its founding in 1910 to 1960. Provides historical context of the City of Kent and the University.

Simpson, Craig S. and Gregory S. Wilson, eds. Above the Shots: An Oral History of the Kent State Shootings. Kent: Kent State University Press, [2016].

Includes numerous excerpts from the oral history recordings in the Kent State Shootings Oral History Project collection of accounts told from the viewpoints of a variety of narrators.

Sorvig, Kim. To Heal Kent State: A Memorial Meditation. Philadelphia: Worldview Press, 1990.

Sorvig is an environmental engineer who submitted an entry in the May 4 Memorial Competition. Although he wasn't a finalist, Sorvig wrote a book of his thoughts on the subject and in creating the memorial.

Stone, I.F. The Killings at Kent State: How Murder Went Unpunished. New York: Vintage Books, 1971.

The first three chapters are reprints of his newsletters (October, November, and December, 1970). The fourth chapter is the Justice Department's summary of the FBI report. Introduction by Ohio Senator Stephen Young. Appendices include reprints of the Akron Beacon Journal's Special Report, the Grand Jury Report, David Frost's interview with Mr. Agnew, and correspondence between J. Edgar Hoover and the Editor of the Akron Beacon Journal.

Taylor, Stuart, Shuntich, Richard, McGovern, Patrick, and Robert Genthner. Violence at Kent State May 1 to 4, 1970: The Students' Perspective. New York: College Notes and Texts Inc., 1971.

One of the few data rich studies done, Taylor and his graduate students sent out a survey on May 28, 1970 to obtain student "perceptions, feelings, attitudes, and reactions." With a sample size of 7,000, the survey provides data relatively unbiased by a large time lapse or other published opinions.

Thomas, Charles A. Blood of Isaac. [unpublished e-book]

Charles A. Thomas wrote a number of e-books (never published in print format) about the shootings at Kent State University based on his extensive research with FBI, Department of Justice, and other governmental files associated with the event.
https://www.library.kent.edu/special-collections-and-archives/blood-isaac-chapter-one-bad-moon-rising

Thomas, Charles A. KENFOUR. [unpublished e-book]

Charles A. Thomas wrote a number of e-books (never published in print format) about the shootings at Kent State University based on his extensive research with FBI, Department of Justice, and other governmental files associated with the event.
https://www.library.kent.edu/special-collections-and-archives/kenfour-notes-investigation

Thomas, Charles A. The Scales Overturned. [unpublished e-book]

Charles A. Thomas wrote a number of e-books (never published in print format) about the shootings at Kent State University based on his extensive research with FBI, Department of Justice, and other governmental files associated with the event.
https://www.library.kent.edu/special-collections-and-archives/scales-overturned-kent-state-and-american-business

Tompkins, Phillip K. and Elaine Vanden Bout Anderson. Communication Crisis at Kent State. New York: Gordon and Breach, 1977.

Examines claims that the events of May 4 were the result of a communication breakdown. Surveyed students, faculty, administrators, and staff. Concludes that "the disintegration of Kent State University during the crises of May, 1970" was the result of serious communication problems embodied in the communication structure of the university.

Tucker, Paula Stone. Surviving: A Kent State Memoir. Tallmadge, OH: Sunbury Press, 2019

From publisher's blurb: "...this memoir of the late Sixties and early Seventies, Surviving: A Kent State Memoir, explores the turbulent era of the War in Vietnam, domestic violence, and a young woman’s triumph in face of great danger and great loss."

Tyner, James A. and Mindy Farmer. Cambodia and Kent State: In the Aftermath of Nixon's Expansion on the Vietnam War. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2020.

From publisher's description: "This brief book concisely contextualizes these events, filling a gap in the popular memory of the 1970 shootings and the wider conceptions of the war in Southeast Asia. In three succinct chapters, James A. Tyner and Mindy Farmer provide background on the decade of activism around the United States that preceded the events on Kent State’s campus, an overview of Cambodia’s history and developments following the US incursion, and a closing section on historical memory..."

United States. The Report of the President's Commission on Campus Unrest. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1970.

Commonly known as the "Scranton Report," the document includes detailed reports as a result of the intensive investigations into the tragedies at Kent, Ohio, Jackson Mississippi, and Lawrence, Kansas. The report details a list of recommendations to the President and other agencies based on these findings.

Warren, Bill. The Middle of the Country: The Events of May 4th as Seen by Students & Faculty at Kent State University. New York: Avon Books, 1970.

Warren describes the book as: "...uncensored, unfiltered, imperfect to be sure; but, it is hoped, useful in the public debate as to the facts and meanings for America of the killings at Kent State."

Wiles, Deborah. Kent State. New York: Scholastic Press, 2020.

From publisher's blurb: "...[an] exploration of one of the darkest moments in our history, when American troops killed four American students protesting the Vietnam War." For young adult readers.