Jackson State killings

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Jackson State killings
Location Jackson, Mississippi
DateMay 15, 1970
12:05 a.m. (Central: UTC-6)
Non-fatal injuries
VictimsPhillip Lafayette Gibbs
James Earl Green
Perpetrators Jackson Police Department
Mississippi Highway Patrol

The Jackson State killings occurred on Friday, May 15, 1970, at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University) in Jackson, Mississippi. On May 14, 1970, a group of students were confronted by city and state police. Shortly after midnight, the police opened fire, killing two students and injuring twelve. [1] The event happened only 11 days after the Kent State shootings, in which National Guardsmen killed four students at Kent State University in Ohio, which had first captured national attention.

Jackson State University university in Mississippi, United States

Jackson State University is a public, historically black university in Jackson, Mississippi. The university is one of the largest HBCUs in the United States and the fourth largest university in Mississippi.

Jackson, Mississippi Capital of Mississippi

Jackson, officially the City of Jackson, is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Mississippi. It is one of two county seats of Hinds County, along with Raymond, Mississippi. The city of Jackson also includes around 3,000 acres comprising Jackson-Medgar Evers International Airport in Rankin County and a small portion of Madison County. The city's population was estimated to be 165,072 in 2017, a decline from 173,514 in 2010. The city sits on the Pearl River and is located in the greater Jackson Prairie region of Mississippi.

Jackson Police Department (Mississippi)

The Jackson Police Department provides law enforcement services to approximately 185,000 citizens encompassing 122 square miles (320 km2) of Jackson, Mississippi. JPD is composed of approximately 430 sworn officers who are supported by over 250 civilian personnel.


A group of around one hundred black students had gathered on Lynch Street (named after black Reconstruction Era congressman John R. Lynch), which bisected the campus, on the evening of Thursday, May 14. The group "were reportedly pelting rocks at white motorists driving down the main road through campus — frequently the site of confrontations between white and black Jackson residents." [2] By around 9:30 p.m. the students had started fires, thrown rocks at motorists and overturned vehicles, including a large truck, after a false rumor spread of the death of Charles Evers. Firefighters dispatched to the scene quickly requested police support.

John R. Lynch American politician

John Roy Lynch was an African-American Republican politician, writer, attorney and military officer. Born into slavery in Louisiana, he became free in 1863 under the Emancipation Proclamation. His father was an Irish immigrant and his parents had a common-law marriage. After serving for several years in the state legislature, in 1873 Lynch was elected as the first African-American Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives; he was the first African American to hold this position in the country. During Reconstruction after the American Civil War, he was among the first generation of African Americans from the South elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from 1873 to 1877 and again in the 1880s. Faced with increasing restrictions in Mississippi, Lynch studied law, passed the bar, and returned to Washington, DC to set up a practice.

Charles Evers American mayor

James Charles Evers is an American civil rights activist and former politician. Evers was known for his role in the civil rights movement along with his younger brother Medgar Evers. He was made the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) State Voter Registration Chairman in 1954. After his brother's assassination in 1963, Evers took over his position as field director of the NAACP in Mississippi. As field director, Evers organized and led many demonstrations for the rights of African Americans.

The police responded in force. At least 75 Jackson police units from the city of Jackson and the Mississippi Highway Patrol [3] attempted to control the crowd while the firemen extinguished the fires. After the firefighters had left the scene shortly before midnight, the police moved to disperse the crowd that had gathered in front of Alexander Hall, a women's dormitory.

Mississippi Highway Patrol

The Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol is the highway patrol and acting state police agency for the U.S. state of Mississippi, and has law enforcement jurisdiction over the majority of the state.

Dormitory sleeping quarters or entire buildings primarily providing sleeping and residential quarters

A dormitory is a building primarily providing sleeping and residential quarters for large numbers of people such as boarding school, high school, college or university students. In some countries, it can also refer to a room containing several beds accommodating people.

Advancing to within 50 to 100 feet (15 to 30 m) of the crowd, at roughly 12:05 a.m., officers opened fire on the dormitory. [4] The exact cause of the shooting and the moments leading up to it are unclear. Authorities say they saw a sniper on one of the building's upper floors and were being sniped in all directions. Later two city policemen and one state patrolman reported minor injuries from flying glass, [4] and an FBI search for evidence of sniper fire was negative. [5] The students say they did not provoke the officers. The gunfire lasted for 30 seconds, and more than 150 shots [2] were fired by a reported 40 state highway patrolmen using shotguns from 30 to 50 feet. Every window on the narrow side of the building facing Lynch Street was shattered. [4]

Sniper highly trained marksman

A sniper is a military/paramilitary marksman who operates to maintain effective visual contact with and engage enemy targets from concealed positions or at distances exceeding the target's detection capabilities. Snipers generally have specialized training and are equipped with high-precision rifles and high-magnification optics, and often feed information back to their units or command headquarters.

The crowd scattered and a number of people were trampled or cut by falling glass. Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, 21, a junior, and James Earl Green, 17, a senior and miler [4] at nearby Jim Hill High School, were killed; twelve others were wounded. Gibbs was killed near Alexander Hall by buckshot, while Green was killed behind the police line in front of B. F. Roberts Hall, also with a shotgun.


The President's Commission on Campus Unrest investigated this event and also held public hearings in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C, and at Kent State. There were no arrests in connection with the deaths at Jackson State, although the Commission concluded "that the 28-second fusillade from police officers was an unreasonable, unjustified overreaction...A broad barrage of gunfire in response to reported and unconfirmed sniper fire is never warranted." [6]

The University has memorialized the occurrence by naming the area of the shootings Gibbs-Green Plaza. [7] [8] The Plaza is a large, multi-level brick and concrete patio and mall on the eastern side of the school's campus that borders J. R. Lynch Street and links Alexander Hall to the University Green. A large stone monument in front of Alexander Hall near the plaza also honors the two victims. Damage to the façade of Alexander Hall caused by the rounds fired by the police is still visible. [2]

See also


  1. Review of Lynch Street: The May 1970 Slayings at Jackson State College (Tim Spofford), Review author: William M. Simpson, The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 56, No. 1. (Feb., 1990), pp. 159–160.
  2. 1 2 3 "Jackson State: A Tragedy Widely Forgotten". npr.org. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  3. The Report of the President's Commission on Campus Unrest, William W. Scranton, Chairman, US Government Printing Office, 1970, pg. 422-424. Retrieved August 15, 2009 from ERIC.ed.gov
  4. 1 2 3 4 Roy Reed, Special to The New York Times, "F.B.I. Investigating Killing Of 2 Negroes in Jackson :Two Negro Students Are Killed In Clash With Police in Jackson", New York Times (1857-Current file) [serial online]. May 16, 1970:1. Available from: ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). Accessed August 14, 2009, Document ID: 80023683.
  5. President's Commission on Campus Unrest, pp. 442–444
  6. Presidents Commission on Campus Unrest, p. 450
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-09-04. Retrieved 2006-11-15.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. Gibbs-Green Plaza, Jackson State, Retrieved August 15, 2009

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