Fifty years ago, on May 4, 1970, a 19-year-old Jewish woman from Pittsburgh was shot and killed by members of the Ohio National Guard during a campus protest against the Vietnam War in Kent, Ohio.
Allison Krause, whose family was affiliated with Parkway Jewish Center in Monroeville, was among three other college students at Kent State University killed that day. Sandra Scheuer and Jeffrey Miller also were Jewish. The fourth victim was William Schroder. Krause and Miller were protesters, while Scheuer and Schroeder were bystanders.
Following the Kent State shootings there were protests across the country and a national student strike. Kent State was closed for six weeks. In Washington, D.C., five days after the shootings, there was a demonstration against the war by 100,000 people.
“Allison was my true north,” her sister, Laurel Krause, told the Chronicle last week, speaking from her home in northern California. “She was loved by everyone. She was popular, attractive and smart. She was who I looked up to.”
Allison and her younger sister Laurel were both born in Cleveland, Ohio to Doris and Arthur Krause. The Krause family relocated to Pittsburgh and lived in the borough of Churchill from 1962 to 1967, then moved to Wheaton, Maryland. In the summer of 1969 – Woodstock summer– they moved back to Churchill, where Laurel entered high school. Allison, who was four years older than Laurel, soon headed off to Kent State to begin her college education.
Allison was an honors student who “always had a book in her hand,” her sister recalled. “And she just had a happy spirit. Allison stood for peace.”
When the National Guardsmen opened fire on the group of unarmed students on May 4, Allison was shot in the left side of her body. She died later that day from her injuries.
For the past 50 years, Laurel has been tormented by her sister’s death, suffering for decades from post-traumatic stress disorder. She has sought solace by pursuing truth and justice, she said, in memory of Allison.
“When Allison died, I asked her to come in me and she did,” Laurel said. “I needed to find out what happened to her. It never made any sense, that the guardsmen would shoot in unison, and no one has ever wanted to look at it.”
In 2010, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Kent State shootings, Laurel, along with filmmaker Emily Aigner Kunstler, formed the Kent State Truth Tribunal. Kunstler filmed more than 80 participants and witnesses of the shooting, and forensic experts, to create a historical record.
“We are looking to find accountability,” Laurel said.
This year, in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of killing of the four students, the Kent State Truth Tribunal launched a new website. On May 4, the nonprofit presented a virtual Kent State teach-in, featuring academic scholars, survivors and “other notables,” Laurel said. Originally planned as a live event, the program had to switch to an online format because of the pandemic, with the interviews conducted via Zoom.
The video teach-in, which runs about four hours, can be viewed at truthtribunal.org.
Professor Mickey Huff of Project Censored, a nonprofit media watchdog organization, interviewed academics, protesters, and Kent State shooting survivors for the video.
The film is intended to enrich “understanding of this important historical event and provide context for where we are as a society today especially on matters of war and peace, civil and human rights, and how we can work together to create a more just and equitable world,” according to the website.
Kent State University also virtually commemorated the 50th anniversary of the shootings with a 47-minute video, which can be viewed at kent.edu/may4kentstate50.
Days before Allison was killed, she said, “Flowers are better than bullets.” That phrase ultimately became the epithet on her tombstone. She is buried in Betty Rosenberg Parkway Jewish Center Cemetery in Wilkins Township. Her parents, who lived in Pittsburgh until their deaths – Doris in 2016 and Arthur in 1988 – are buried there as well.
Laurel plans to continue to honor Allison’s legacy by seeking “accountability” for her sister’s death and the death of the other students shot on May 4, 1970, and to help ensure the right of others to peacefully protest.
“It’s about coming to terms with harmony and living in peace,” she said. PJC
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.