Jackson State University’s class of 1970 will finally get their time to shine after two tragedies forced the postponement of their graduation ceremonies.
“(The class of 1970) didn’t get to have a graduation,” said Dr. Robert Luckett, director of the Margret Walker Center and a history professor at JSU. “And they’ve now had two ceremonies canceled, one in 1970 and again in 2020. So, for the very first time on Saturday at 10 am, here in the middle of campus – outside, COVID safe – we’re going to (give them their diplomas).”
The event will feature President Emeritus Dr. John A. Peoples who will posthumously award Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters to the families of Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green. The two men were gunned down on May 14, 1970, when city and state police opened fire with more than 460 rounds on a crowd of students, the culmination of years of racial tension between white motorists who traveled through the JSU campus on John R. Lynch Street and JSU students. The road, long since closed, is the site of Gibbs-Green Memorial Plaza.
“It’s going to be a really powerful program,” Luckett said. “(The families are) remarkable people and the spirit that they possess, even after having lived with that tragedy for the last 50 years, is extraordinary.”
He added, “We hope people will be involved in (this event) and will show up for and watch as well.”