cover image Lynch Street: The May 1970 Slayings at Jackson State College

Lynch Street: The May 1970 Slayings at Jackson State College

Tim Spofford. Kent State University Press, $0 (219pp) ISBN 978-0-87338-355-4

Lynch Street is not, as one might assume, named after lynchings, rather it is identified with John Ray Lynch, an emancipated slave and Mississippi's first black congressman. Lynch Street is the site of the black Jackson State College, where two black men were killed during antiwar and civil-rights protests in May 1970, 10 days after the Kent State University incident where four white students were slain by National Guardsmen. According to Spofford, a writer for the Albany Times Union , the Jackson State killings have been largely forgotten in contrast to the Kent State deaths. In his account, Spofford relies mainly on interviews with the wounded students and the families of the dead. He traces the mounting tensions on Lynch Street between blacks and whites and maintains that Jackson State students were not known for their political activism; yet a mini-riot, fueled by an atmosphere of racism, escalated, and the police panicked, called for extra help and began shooting. Spofford suc cessfully recalls the moment with primary sources. His reportage is rigorous but somewhat repetitious and not particularly analytical. The evidence of the killings was studied by a presidential commission, two grand juries and a civil court but, as Spofford demonstrates, the racial strain was not settled by a court of law and has yet to be resolved. Illustrated. (September)