On February 8, 1968, in Orangeburg, South Carolina, a tragic shooting occurred leaving three African American students dead and 29 injured due to racial conflict and denial of basic human rights. This little known event occurred after a group of South Carolina State University students went out for an evening of entertainment and bowling at the only local bowling alley in Orangeburg, only to be denied entry due to the color of their skin. Anxiety rose as the owner of the establishment refused the students access into the building. Tension increased over the following two days ultimately leading to the deadly shooting.
At the same time the Vietnam War was raging thousands of miles away, the small South Carolina town encountered its own horrifying events, termed the worst college shooting incident predating the Jackson State, Kent State, and Columbine shootings. The deadly shootings left a mark on Orangeburg, but the town has since healed from this tragic event.
After being denied entry into the local bowling alley, over 200 Black students showed support of their fellow students by lighting a bonfire in peaceful protest of this strike against their civil rights. Orangeburg’s fire department was called in to oversee the bonfire; state police and the local National Guard were also on hand to help with crowd control. While the crowd gathered around the bonfire discussing the event that had happened, a faulty railing fell on one of the policemen’s heads. In reaction to the racket, police began immediately firing shots into the crowd, killing three Black students and injuring several onlookers.
To hear more about this event, come to Clovis Community College on Wednesday, February 25, 11:00am in the Commons Area. An hour-long dynamic recount of this and other events leading up to arrest and the court case that is currently reopened will be presented by Alicia Banks, Advising administrative assistant and Tonya Bradford, GEAR UP specialist, in honor of Black History Month. The discussion and film footage regarding the accounts of this historic happening will feature first-hand details that were provided by Dr. Cleveland Sellers, who was attending the peace rally as a representative of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Currently, he is President of Voorhees College, in Denmark, South Carolina, and continues to be an avid civil rights activist. He is a close personal friend of Ms. Banks, who initiated Wednesday’s presentation.
The book, The Orangeburg Massacre, by Jack Bass and Jack Nelson gives a more detailed look at this event. A screen play was later written followed by the movie, Sacred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968.Call 769-4015 for more information.