MAY 15, 1970

Credit: AP/Jack Thornel

Mississippi law enforcement officers opened fire on the Jackson State University campus, killing two Black students, Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green. 

Police insisted the students fired first, but no evidence was found to confirm this. The killings took place 11 days after the slayings of four students at Kent State University in Ohio. 

Author Margaret Walker Alexander, a JSU professor, wrote in her journal, “Thursday night all hell broke loose. The Jackson city white police and a special unit of Highway Patrolmen (Ku Klux Klan in uniform) went out to the Jackson State campus and shot without warning into the west wing of the women’s dormitory breaking all the front windows — killing two students and wounding eleven others — four critically — cutting the telephone wires — shooting into the building where all the wounded girls were shot — splattering the place with pools of blood and leaving the bullet holes to prove where the ricocheted bullets of great magnitude had torn the walls.” 

A historical marker memorializes the tragedy.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.