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Exploring Primary Sources: Four Days in May: The Vietnam War Experience at UK: ROTC Fire Video

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


The burning of the Air Force ROTC building and the protests during early May 1970 were also captured on video by UK student Terrence Fox. This video is valuable visual evidence of the unrest on UK's campus during this chaotic time. This video was converted from 8mm film, and shows the fire at the Buell Armory (AFROTC Building), the Board of Trustees meeting, campus protests, and the march through Lexington. Even though there exists no audio to match, view this video from a critical lens. What questions do you have? How does it change your understanding of this time?


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. What do we know or what can we infer about the creators or subjects of this video? Whose perspective is represented? 

Context: Think about the when and why of this primary source. Why did the student capture these moments? 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: Like photographs, video can convey feelings and emotions 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.

ROTC Building Fire Video

Video Still of the ROTC Fire

Click the still image above to navigate to the online video. You can also visit the video link directly to watch by visiting this URL: