Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio
Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio is a graphic novel account of the events that unfolded at Kent State in May 1970. I found it interesting, emotional, and informative. To say that it is moving would be an understatement. To say that it is painstakingly researched and referenced would also be an understatement. I wish I could give all my American history students a copy of this book.
Backderf introduces readers to the four students who were killed, and we get to know them a little bit. We also read accounts of their last conversations with, for example, their parents. We learn about the summer plans that they had, one student’s attempt to rescue a dog, and their thoughts on the Vietnam draft and SDS. The power of the book lies in replacing the names in history books with real lives, personalities, and relationships, not only with those who died, but with their friends, too.
The book analyzes what is known about why the guard killed the students and seriously injured nine others, but it does not fill holes with rumors. Backderf uses conversations that he has had, in addition to all the primary and secondary sources available. He explains the infiltration of the FBI and other agencies on campus, as well as the culture and shortcomings of the Ohio National Guard, local politicians, and campus administration. The story of what happened that day is complicated, but it is served well in this book.
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