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Exploring Primary Sources: Four Days in May: The Vietnam War Experience at UK: March Photographs

This online module is designed for use in early career undergraduate classes (WRD, CIS, HIS) as an introduction to primary sources.

Background

The photographs depict some of the protests led by students at the University of Kentucky following the shooting of four students at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. You might recognize some of the locations on campus in these photographs. Students carried signs, banners, and a black coffin through campus and through downtown Lexington to honor the lives lost at Kent State, and to further protest the Vietnam War. These protests had been ongoing for years at UK, and were led by various student groups and leaders. Look for details in these photographs to answer the questions below.

Questions

Brainstorm. List 10-20 words or phrases about the documents/items. (Start with the details of the document, like topic, names, publication, etc. What do you find interesting? Strange? Do you find anything appealing or disturbing? Things you don’t understand or are unfamiliar with?)

Articulating Problems. Formulate 2-4 possible problems that could be developed from the above list of words and description of materials. (Problems can be found by looking for tensions between ideas, conflicts between your own experience and what the text/image presents, assumptions underlying the arguments of the text/item, or if you notice any gaps or missing information overlooked by the source).


Focus Questions:

Bias:  Bias can be difficult to infer from photographs, but try to identify some biases in play. What do we know or what can we infer about the creators or subjects of these photos? Whose perspective is represented? 

Context: Think about the when and why of this primary source. Why did the photographer capture this moment? What makes this a valuable resource to the topic?

Power: What power relationships can you identify in the materials? Try to think in terms of format in addition to content.

Reflections: Photographs can convey the feeling and emotion of humanity in a way other primary sources may not. Identify emotions portrayed in or evoked by these materials--in the subjects, surroundings, or your own reactions.

Vietnam War Protest Photographs

Students protest by marching through Central Campus in reaction to the Kent State shootings.

From the University of Kentucky general photographic prints collection.

Photograph of students protesting on UK's Campus.

Students protest in downtown Lexington.

From the University of Kentucky general photographic prints collection.

Photograph of students protesting the Vietnam War in downtown Lexington

Protest in front of the Patterson Office Tower in reaction to the Kent State shootings.

From the University of Kentucky general photographic prints collection.

Photograph of students protesting on UK's campus

Students protest in reaction to the Kent State shootings.

From the University of Kentucky general photographic prints collection.

Photograph of students protesting on UK's campus