In May 1970, the National Guard was called to Kent State University to disperse student protesters. On May 4, during a noon gathering, students faced down Guardsmen as they voiced their anger over the United States’ military involvement in Cambodia and Vietnam.

While the details surrounding an order to shoot continue to be debated, at 12:24 p.m. a group of National Guardsmen turned and fired into the crowd of students, injuring nine and killing four.

The ACLU was on campus within days of the shootings, addressing a variety of civil liberties violations faced by students on campus during the aftermath. And for nearly a decade after the shootings, the ACLU worked for justice on behalf of the students who were killed or injured.

Nine years later, the ACLU, led by volunteer attorney Sanford Jay Rosen in representing the victims and their families, reached a settlement in a civil suit.

The following resources will be of interest to researchers and civil libertarians.

  • In 1975, Benson Wolman (ACLU of Ohio executive director from 1969 to 1986) wrote an article for the national ACLU newsletter, Civil Liberties, describing the ACLU's investigations of civil liberties violations surrounding the May 4 shootings.
  • Statement by the families of those injured and killed at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, which was issued after Krause v. Rhodes was settled on January 4, 1979
  • March 12, 1979 court decision regarding discovery materials in Krause v. Rhodes
  • Yale University archives holds the ACLU files related to Krause v. Rhodes. The finding aid includes historical information about the case.
  • The Ohio Historical Society holds the Attorney General records related to the civil damage claims. To view the finding click here and search the Manuscripts, Audio/Visual and State Archives collections for “Kent State University trial records.”
  • ACLU of Ohio Winter 2008 newsletter article about the litigation files held at Yale University

Date filed

May 4, 1970