In the days leading up to February 8, 1968, about 200 mostly student protesters gathered on the campus of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg) to protest the segregation of the All Star Bowling Lane (now called All-Star Triangle Bowl), on US 301 (now SC 33). The bowling alley was owned by the late Harry K. Floyd.
That night, students threw firebombs, bricks and bottles and started a bonfire. As police attempted to put out the fire, an officer was injured by a thrown piece of banister. The police stated that they believed they were under attack by small arms fire. A newspaper report said “about 200 Negroes gathered and began sniping with what sounded like ‘at least one automatic, a shotgun and other small caliber weapons’ and throwing bricks and bottles at the patrolmen.” Protesters insisted that they did not fire at police officers, but did hurl various objects and insults at the police. Evidence that police were being fired at the time of the incident was inconclusive. While no evidence has been presented that protesters were armed or had fired on officers, a 1968 newspaper article reported that students threw firebombs at buildings and that the sound of apparent sniper fire was heard.
Officers fired into the crowd, killing three young men: Samuel Hammond, Henry Smith, both SCSU students, and Delano Middleton, a local student at Wilkinson High School. Twenty-eight others were wounded during the shooting or after in police abuse.
At a press conference the following day, Governor Robert E. McNair said the event was "...one of the saddest days in the history of South Carolina". McNair blamed the deaths on outside Black Power agitators, but subsequent investigations showed this allegation to be without basis and untrue.
At the trial, the first federal trial of police officers for using excessive force at a campus protest, all nine defendants were acquitted. The activist Cleveland Sellers was the only person convicted and imprisoned (7 months) as a result of the incident. He represented the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and was convicted of having incited the riot that preceded the shootings. In 1973 he wrote The River of No Return: The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC. Twenty-five years later, Sellers was officially pardoned.
List of those involved
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Highway Patrol Personnel Involved In The Shooting
- Patrol Lieutenant Jesse Alfred Spell, 45
- Sgt. Henry Morrell Addy, 37
- Sgt. Sidney C. Taylor, 43
- Corporal Joseph Howard Lanier, 32
- Corporal Norwood F. Bellamy, 50
- Patrolman First Class John William Brown, 31
- Patrolman First Class Colie Merle Metts, 36
- Patrolman Allen Jerome Russell, 24
- Patrolman Edward H. Moore, 30
- Patrolman Robert Sanders, 44 - was not charged in the massacre, but reportedly later made self-incriminating statements about having shot some of the rioters.
- Samuel Hammond Jr., 18
- Delano Herman Middleton, 17
- Henry Ezekial Smith, 19
- Patrolman David Shealy - His being injured preceded police opening fire on the crowd
- Cleveland Sellers, 23 - Was later arrested and convicted of starting the riot. Received a full pardon in 1993.
- Herman Boller Jr., 19
- Johnny Bookhart, 19
- Thompson Braddy, 20
- Bobby K. Burton, 22
- Ernest Raymond Carson, 17
- Robert Lee Davis Jr., 19
- Albert Dawson, 18
- Bobby Eaddy, 17
- Herbert Gadson, 19
- Samuel Grant, 19
- Samuel Grate, 19
- Joseph Hampton, 21
- Charles W. Hildebrand, 19
- Nathaniel Jenkins, 21
- Thomas Kennerly, 21
- Joseph Lambright, 21
- Richard McPherson, 19
- Harvey Lee Miller, 15
- Harold Riley, 20
- Ernest Shuler, 16
- Jordan Simmons III, 21
- Ronald Smith, 19
- Frankie Thomas, 18
- Robert Watson, 19
- Robert Lee Williams, 19
- Savannah Williams, 19
- John Carson - was beaten by highway patrol after he started questioning their involvement.
- Louise Kelly Cawley, 27 - A pregnant woman, Louise was beaten and sprayed in the face with a chemical by policemen while trying to take the injured to the hospital. The beating was so severe that she had a miscarriage a week later.
- John H. Elliot - was added to the list of those injured in the shooting on the 40th anniversary. Elliot said he was shot in the stomach the night of the massacre but did not go to the hospital for treatment.
The shootings at Orangeburg predated the Kent State shootings and Jackson State killings. This was the first incident of its kind on a United States university campus. The Orangeburg massacre received relatively little media coverage.
Historian Jack Bass attributed the discrepancy in media coverage, compared to that for later events, to the fact that the victims at Orangeburg were young black men protesting local segregation. In addition, the shootings at Orangeburg happened at night, when media coverage was less. At Kent State, in contrast, the victims were young whites protesting an increasingly unpopular and highly politicized U.S. war in Vietnam. They were attacked by members of the National Guard, which the media may have judged a more inflammatory aspect of the shootings. Other analysts have noted that later events in 1968, such as the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and candidate Robert Kennedy, and the Tet Offensive overshadowed the events at Orangeburg.
South Carolina State University's gymnasium is named in memory of the three men. A monument was erected on campus in their honor and the site has been marked. All-Star Triangle Bowl was integrated. The Floyd family has maintained ownership and operation of the business.
In 2001 Governor Jim Hodges was the first governor to attend the university's annual memorial of the event. That same year, on the 33rd anniversary of the killings, eight survivors told their stories at a memorial service. Robert Lee Davis told an interviewer,
"One thing I can say is that I'm glad you all are letting us do the talking, the ones that were actually involved, instead of outsiders that weren't there, to tell you exactly what happened."
The state general assembly recently passed a resolution recommending that February 8 be a day of remembrance for the students killed and wounded in the protest.
- ^ http://books.google.com/books?q=1968+orangeburg&btnG=Search+Books
- ^ "28th Name Added To Massacre List 40 Years Later"
- ^ Bass, Jack (Fall, 2003). "Documenting the Orangeburg Massacre". Nieman Reports (Harvard University) 57 (3): 9. http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/assets/pdf/Nieman%20Reports/backissues/03fall.pdf.
- ^ “press dispatches” (February 21, 1968). "Riot Quelled at Negro College". The Milwaukee Journal.
- ^ Robert M. Ford (February 8, 1968). "Three Persons Killed in Orangeburg Riots". The Times-News (Hendersonville, NC). http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=XlRPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ViQEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6909,2648203&dq=orangeburg+riot&hl=en. Retrieved November 27, 2010.
- ^ "Uneasy Calm Enforced After Days of Rioting". Middlesboro Daily News. February 10, 1968. Retrieved November 27, 2010.
- ^ Linda Meggett Brown, "Remembering the Orangeburg Massacre", Black Issues in Higher Education, March 1, 2001. Accessed April 1, 2005.
Books and articles
- Sellers, Cleveland L. (1998), "Orangeburg Massacre: Dealing honestly with tragedy and distortion", The Times and Democrat, January 24, 1998.
- Bass, Jack; Nelson, Jack (2003). The Orangeburg Massacre: Second Edition. Mercer University Press. ISBN 9780865545526. http://www.mupress.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=194.
- Watters, Pat, and Rogeau, Weldon (1968). Events at Orangeburg; a report based on study and interviews in Orangeburg, South Carolina, in the aftermath of tragedy. Southern Regional Council, Atlanta.
- Beacham, Frank (2007). Whitewash: A Southern Journey through Music, Mayhem and Murder. Booklocker. ISBN 9781591131878. http://www.booklocker.com/books/939.html.
- Brian Cabell, "Remembering the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre", February 8, 2001. Web posted at: 4:02 p.m. EST (2102 GMT). Accessed April 1, 2005.
- Jack Bass, "Documenting the Orangeburg Massacre", Neiman Reports. Harvard University. Fall 2003. Accessed May 21, 2007.
- Linda Meggett Brown, "Remembering the Orangeburg Massacre", Black Issues in Higher Education, March 1, 2001. Accessed April 1, 2005.
- "On the Freedom Road: A Guardian reporter visits the All-Star Triangle Bowl", The Guardian, Accessed May 21, 2007.
- 1968, "Forty Years Later: A Look Back at the Orangeburg Massacre", Democracy Now!', 2008, Accessed April 3, 2008.
- "Scarred Justice: the Orangeburg Massacre 1968, a documentary distributed by California Newsreel.