By Whitney Wyckoff at NPR
A group of angry students. A burst of gunfire from authorities. Young lives cut short.
It sounds a lot like the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970, but it happened 10 days later at a predominantly black college in the South.
Police fired for about 30 seconds on a group of students at Jackson State in Mississippi, killing two and wounding 12 others.
The tragedy was the culmination of increasing friction among students, local youths and law enforcement. On the evening of May 14, African-American youths were reportedly pelting rocks at white motorists driving down the main road through campus — frequently the site of confrontations between white and black Jackson residents.
Tensions rose higher when a rumor spread around campus that Charles Evers — a local politician, civil rights leader and the brother of slain activist Medgar Evers — and his wife had been killed, according to Lynch Street: The May 1970 Slayings at Jackson State College. The situation escalated when a non-Jackson State student set a dump truck on fire.
Police responded to the call. A group of students and non-students threw rocks and bricks at the officers. Police advanced to Alexander Hall, a large dorm for women.
According to a 1970 report from the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest, police fired more than 150 rounds. And an FBI investigation revealed that about 400 bullets or pieces of buckshot had been fired into Alexander Hall. The shooters claimed that there was a sniper in the dorm, but investigators found “insufficient evidence” of that claim.
The two young men who were gunned down in the melee were Phillip L. Gibbs, a junior at Jackson State and the father of an 18-month-old; and James Earl Green, a high school senior.
Read the full article at NPR
Interview with Dr. Gene Young
By the Zinn Education Project
Here is an interview on Democracy Now! with Dr. Gene Young about this story that, while only 10 days after the Kent State Killings, does not get the same attention in the press and textbooks. Young, who as a student was a witness to the tragedy, begins by describing the protest:
We had had several nights of protests, not only because of what was going on at Kent State, but every campus in this country was in an uproar about the war in Vietnam. . . . Young Black males were being sent to Southeast Asia in disproportionate numbers, and we were concerned about that, in addition to the historic racism there in Jackson, Mississippi. So there were several nights of protests. And I was thinking that there would just be some taunts and jeers at the law enforcement officials present and thinking nothing would happen, but shortly after midnight, on that third night, early in the morning, May 15, actually, those students were fired upon at Jackson State.