Week 4 Reflection

Historical material based in commemoration has the power to create a variety of emotions.  The websites containing material on the Kent State incident contain mostly photograph archives and some of the official reports as released by the Judicial department, government sources, and university officials.  Additionally, the archives also provide another perspective from the stories, from the student protesters themselves.  The access to these primary source records as collected and recorded by the Kent State offer opportunities to research the event from multiple perspectives.  However, the digital collection only contains photographs and some digitized statements.  The full collection is only available in “hard copy form”, and must be accessed on-site on Kent State campus.  While Kent State is making a move to make these materials available for everyone, accessibility is still in many respects restricted.

While the presence of commemorative websites are wonderful, I do not believe that proper historical interpretation can take place in these environments.  The Kent State website has provided an excellent archive to the material, and properly has kept itself free from interpreting the event either positively or negatively.  This absence of opinion, I view to be important in an archive.  Other websites that we viewed have taken a stand on interpretation by providing student’s accounts and remembrances of where they were on May 4, 1970.  Commemoration should best be left for people to remember, rather than politicize the event.

Bias in the blog created by Mike Alewitz is apparent.  However, the blog is used as a forum of remembrance, and without fail an open invitation for anyone to write has of course made the blog politicized.  While Dr. Alewitz himself was a participant in the Kent State riot, the goal of the blog is seemingly to remember the victims and in some respects to tribute the radicalization of the student protest in 1970.  He seems to maintain a slight bias, however his urging to others to contribute to his blog has seen given us an interesting example of a radical that has not changed since she was a teenager.  That example of course is Dr. Manuel Barrera who refers to capitalists as “petty” and their contributions to society not as positive but “blight”.  Another poster has now been employed in Labor and Employment relations and the great majority have commented on their participation of the movements in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  I think a site like this, can also hold valuable information on who the people involved in these radical movements have shaped to be and what positions they may hold now.  Due to the rise of the New Left-historiographically speaking and their perceived domination in the field since the 1960’s, it is apparent that academia has indeed housed many of these activists, Dr. Alewitz and the above mentioned Dr. Barrera, as well as Weather Underground leaders Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.  While biased, historians can use these also as pieces of evidence to get a better picture on public opinion.  While they may not be full in perspective, and not all cases stand that the participants are/were extreme radicals, it speaks of an era that could foster these feelings of individuals towards their government.  Historians, commemorate and tribute as well, but research needs to stress empathy towards historical events, while maintaining an air of professionalism that stresses empathy over sympathy.

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One Response to Week 4 Reflection

  1. Prof.Mack says:

    Your point about the difference between commemoration and history is excellent. But can we always draw that line?

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