© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

May 4: Kent State Impact on North Dakota

Ways To Subscribe

On May 1, 1970, students at Kent State University, Ohio, were protesting against a U.S. invasion of Cambodia to destroy North-Vietnamese basecamps. Rocks were thrown at police and the campus ROTC building was firebombed with Molotov-Cocktails. After firefighters arrived, radicals cut the fire hoses.

Ohio’s governor declared martial law, sending in the National Guard.

It was on this date in 1970 that 600 Kent State students gathered to protest having National Guard on campus. Told to “disperse,” activists threw rocks, and guardsmen used tear gas.

The protesters still didn’t leave; and the 100 National Guard troops retreated. Feeling threatened, 28 guardsmen fired their rifles. Some shot high, some shot low, and some aimed. After 13 seconds, nine protesters were wounded, and there were “four dead in Ohio.”

Protests arose on college campuses around the country. In some places there were boycotts. In others, firebombings and violence.

In North Dakota, the responses were not so radical. Jamestown College held a memorial worship service.

UND canceled classes for one day. About 1,000 students and faculty rallied outside the administration building, with students threatening a “strike.” Despite the threat, UND’s classes continued through the spring semester. However, on May 14, UND gave students an option to protest – allowing them to withdraw from classes with a “W” grade to be made up later; or a pass/fail option; or, with a professor’s permission, getting a final grade for classwork completed. But graduation occurred in early June, as usual.

At NDSU, classes were held as scheduled, except for a “Spring Blast” open house on May 6.

In Bismarck, about 200 college and high school students staged a march and rally on May 8.

At Minot State College, 35 students held a “peace march” on May 12, to show “sympathy for the Kent State students.”

Protests waned after 1970 as America slowly retreated from Vietnam. President Nixon gradually withdrew U.S. soldiers, going from half-a-million to 39,000 over three years. A ceasefire came in January, 1973; and the last of the U.S. troops were removed that March.

Dakota Datebook by Steve Hoffbeck, Retired MSUM History Professor


  • “Protest Strikes Set At Several Campuses,” Fargo Forum, evening edition, May 4, 1970, p. 1.
  • “Allies Hit Cambodia: U.S. Assault Includes 8,000 Combat GIs,” Bismarck Tribune, May 1, 1970, p. 1.
  • Jerry M. Lewis and Thomas R. Hensley, “The May 4 Shootings At Kent State University; The Search For Historical Accuracy,” https://www.kent.edu/may-4-historical-accuracy, accessed April 3, 2023.
  • “4 Kent State Students Killed by Troops,” New York Times, May 5, 1970, p. 1; “Troops Kill 4 Students on Ohio Campus,” Minneapolis Tribune, May 5, 1970, p. 1; “Martyrdom That Shook the Country,” Time, May 18, 1970, p. 13;
  • “UND Cancels Classes For Day,” Bismarck Tribune, May 5, 1970, p. 1; “1,500 UND Students Join in Protest Rally,” Fargo Forum, May 6, 1970, p. 29; “2,000 Protest Shooting At UND,” Grand Forks Herald, May 5, 1970, p. 1.
  • “Activities Return To Normal in N.D. After UND Protest,” Bismarck Tribune, May 6, 1970, p. 15.
  • “F-M Campuses Peaceful In 2nd Day of Strike, Fargo Forum, May 7, 1970, p. 1.
  • “UND to Have Classes,” Bismarck Tribune, May 9, 1970, p. 14; “UND Won’t Halt Classes,” Fargo Forum, May 9, 1970, p. 1; “Class Absence Option Offered To UND Students,” Bismarck Tribune, May 15, 1970, p. 11; “U Changes Policies For Students Leaving Classes,” Grand Forks Herald, May 15, 1970, n.p.
  • “Bismarck Students Join War Protest Movement,” Bismarck Tribune, May 8, 1970, p. 1; “200 Local Students Join in Protest,” Bismarck Tribune, May 9, 1970, p. 5.
  • “Green Beret Leads Minot Protesters,” Bismarck Tribune, May 14, 1970, p. 28.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Related Content