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Exploring Primary Sources: Four Days in May: The Vietnam War Experience at UK: Kernel Article

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


The previous tab highlighted Lexington residents' opinions on the protests and events, and many referenced the burning of the ROTC building on campus. The student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel, also covered the student protests and the burning of the ROTC building. In a special issue, the student reporters recounted the the student protest, a contentious meeting of the Board of Trustees, and finally the arson of the ROTC building on UK's campus. In this primary source you will see a variety of perspectives, including quotes from UK administrators, and a full explanation of the events surrounding the protests. Remember, this was a newspaper written by students for students, so keep that point of view in mind when reading the articles.


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: Try to identify some biases in play. Remember this is a newspaper written by students for students. What do we know or what can we infer about the creators or subjects of these materials? Whose perspective is represented?

Context: Think about the when and why of this primary source. What gives their stories authority? 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.

Language: How are the topics and perspectives sensationalized through the language used? Identify some key words or phrases that are meant to elicit strong reactions. What makes the rhetoric persuasive? Or, what undercuts its credibility? 

Kentucky Kernel, May 6, 1970