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Remembering Jackson State

On May 15, 1970, at 12:05 a.m., local and state law enforcement shot roughly 400 rounds and pieces of buckshot at a crowd on the campus of Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi. After nearly thirty seconds of this barrage, Phillip L. Gibbs, a twenty-one-year-old Jackson State junior, and James Earl Green, a seventeen-year-old high school senior lay dead. Twelve Jackson State students also suffered gunshot wounds that night.

Jackson State is a historically black college that later changed its name to Jackson State University. Long-standing racism and confrontation between the town’s African American and white communities sometimes focused on the Jackson State campus. White commuters often drove through Jackson State and the surrounding African American neighborhood to and from work downtown. The evening of May 14 saw clashes near the campus that included Jackson State students, white motorists, and others. Law enforcement mobilized in response to this conflict, which eventually led to this violence of May 15. Only eleven days after the killing of four students by Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent State University on May 4, Gibbs’s and Green’s deaths often get overshadowed.

A Chicago Sun-Times photographer captured images of a memorial service for Gibbs and Green at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on May 16, the day after they were killed. About 200 people attended this event, and the University shut down for roughly twenty-four hours in tribute to Gibbs and Green. Some students and faculty at the nearby Lutheran School of Theology went on strike at the same time.

These images are now part of the Museum’s Chicago Sun-Times Photograph Collection, one of the largest newspaper photograph collections ever acquired by an American museum. See more images.

A memorial service at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on May 16, 1970, for the students killed at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi. ST-13002826-0010, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM
A memorial service at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on May 16, 1970, for the students killed at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi. ST-13002826-0004, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM
A memorial service at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on May 16, 1970, for the students killed at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi. ST-13002826-0001, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM

The Chicago History Museum’s Chicago Sun-Times Photograph Collection comprises more than 5 million images spanning over seventy-five years. These images document monumental events and everyday occurrences of life in urban America, many of which were never published. In addition to preserving and inventorying the images, the Museum will digitize and make accessible a substantial portion of them over the next several years. An initial batch of images can be viewed now at CHM Images. Explore the images.

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