Little Bits of History

Orangeburg, South Carolina

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 8, 2010

Protesters outside the bowling alley

February 8, 1968: Tensions run high on a college campus. On the fourth night of student demonstrations, authorities fired on the unarmed student body, killing three and wounding 27 during the melee. After the shooting stopped, police went on to injure more of the people in the crowd. One woman miscarried as a result of the beating she received. The numbers are sometimes, therefore, listed as four dead and 31 injured.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young have a song entitled Ohio with lyrics saying “Four dead in Ohio” but there were three killed in South Carolina. This struggle took place before the Kent State shooting and the Jackson State killings. The Orangeburg students were putting on a civil rights demonstration revolving around the town’s only bowling alley. The students from SC State and nearby Claflin University were mostly African-American and the bowling alley wasn’t open to them.

There were about 200 protesters gathered, mostly students. These young people were peacefully protesting against the segregation. Police claimed they were under attack by small arms fire but protestors claim they were unarmed. The police fired into the crowd and they quickly dispersed, running for cover. Most of the injuries were people who were shot in the back. Henry Smith, Samuel Hammond (both college students) and Delano Middleton (17-year-old high school student) were killed. Then governor, Robert McNair blamed the night’s event on Black Power agitators, but none were found to be present.

There were no songs about these young men. The nine officers were charged with using excessive force at a campus protest, the first federal trial of this type. All nine were acquitted. Cleveland Sellers was sentenced to jail for seven months for inciting a riot. He was from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Their tragedy was overshadowed by the other horrific events of the year – the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy as well as the rioting at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

“It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.” – Voltaire

“If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.” – Louis D. Brandeis

“Civil Rights opened the windows. When you open the windows, it does not mean that everybody will get through. We must create our own opportunities.” – Mary Frances Berry

“As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever.” – Clarence Darrow

Also on this day, in 1918 the Stars & Stripes began to publish once again.

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