The first students were admitted to Kent State in 1913, and by 1929, it was granted four year status, ultimately becoming a university in 1938. By 1970, the town of Kent had far exceeded its 1913 population of 5,000, and Kent State University itself had an enrollment that topped twenty-one thousand. Following the end of World War II, the city and the school had grown exponentially. By the early 1970’s, the university employed 2,500 people, was one of the twenty five largest schools in the country, and the city of Kent had become the largest population center in Portage County, Ohio. Interestingly, the schools location and its relationship with the town of Kent seem to have been fraught with friction from the early days forward, although this observation alone certainly doesn’t account for the events of May 4, 1970.
The war in Vietnam had been sparking campus unrest across the nation in the late 1960’s, and Kent State was not immune. In November of 1968, the Black United Student (BUS) and the Kent Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) gathered for a protest which appeared to be a harbinger of future events. The nexus of the BUS and SDS demonstration was the presence of recruiters for the Oakland, California, police department. Subsequently, the Kent State administration, led by President White, announced there would be sanctions levied against those involved. However, following a boycott and a threat by the black community to withdraw from the school, the administration dropped the charges, ending the first of several disagreements which were to follow.