Hampshire Student Writes About Memories and
Monuments: Kent State, One Generation Removed
“All witnesses of and players in a historical event are they themselves monuments. We are all, for that matter, monuments to our own lives and the era in which our lives occur. Michel Foucault wrote that self is written on the body. So too, is history, and also, within it.”— excerpt from Amanda Goldblatt’s Hampshire College Division III
Growing up in Silver Spring, Maryland, Amanda Goldblatt lived in the shadow of the nation’s prominent Washington, D.C., monuments and memorials, so omnipresent in her day-to-day life that they became almost invisible to her. Another national marker also lingered over her childhood: her mother had been a student activist at Kent State when, on May 4, 1970, four antiwar protestors were shot and killed.
Nearly a quarter of a century later Goldblatt has blended these two significant childhood presences into a compelling senior project at Hampshire College. “Hello Again, Kent State” is a literary nonfiction project that explores the location of memory in a physical space, the limitations of physical memorials and the realization that human beings are themselves memorials to what they have witnessed even as memory is transitory.
Memories one generation removed came vividly to life for Goldblatt last fall when she visited Kent State, accompanied by her mother, and retraced the steps of that day 24 years ago this month. While she carried perceptions of the historical events of May 4 that she had gleaned from her mother’s stories, stepping foot onto Blanket Hill, the scene of the shooting of students not unlike herself or who easily might have been her mother, brought home the magnitude of the event and its importance to that era of activism and war. She felt a keen sense of connection, both because her mother had been there and because of her own awareness of being part of another generation of young people who now know another war.
Goldblatt and her mother made a second trip to the Kent State campus, by which time, she said, “it had become clear to me that human beings are living monuments to what they have witnessed. And that memory erodes over time.”
Goldblatt said some of the questions that drove her to write about Kent State were: “How is an event passed from one generation to another? How does memory deteriorate and what is important to preserve? And, most importantly, why should we remember? I think discussing issues and creating an exchange of ideas concerning an important event in history will lead to progress.”
Every graduating student at Hampshire College completes a yearlong independent project, called the Division III. Students work closely with mentoring faculty, but shape their projects and papers from their own intellectual, creative or social concerns and questions. History professor and Dean of the Faculty Aaron Berman chaired Goldblatt’s faculty committee, which also included writing instructor Will Ryan.
Goldblatt’s plans after graduating from Hampshire College on May 22 include traveling, finding a job, and eventually attending graduate school. She hopes to write professionally.