The 1968 Orangeburg Massacre in South Carolina
South Carolina SC African-American History 1968 Orangeburg Massacre
On the night of February 8th, 1968, three students were killed by police gunfire on the South Carolina State University campus in Orangeburg. Twenty-eight others were wounded. None of the students were armed and most were shot in their backs or the soles of their feet.
Tensions between students and police had gradually escalated over a period of a few days, following efforts by students to desegregate a downtown Orangeburg bowling alley. The protesters at the bowling alley had witnessed the beating by police of two female students.
When a large bonfire was lit at the edge of campus on February 8th, firemen backed by police moved in to douse the fire. A banister was thrown and hit a highway trooper, who fell to the ground bleeding. As students moved closer to watch the fire being put out, a patrolman shot his gun in the air as a warning. Thinking the shots had been fired by the students, nine other officers opened fire. Their riot guns were loaded with lethal buckshot.
The next day, Governor Robert E. McNair held a press conference in Columbia, in which he called the shootings an "unfortunate incident." Adding a few factual errors, McNair said the incident occurred off campus and placed blame on "black power advocates." All nine police officers involved in the shootings were acquitted a year later.
Cleveland Sellers, then director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and present in Orangeburg at the time, was the only person convicted in the aftermath of the Orangeburg Massacre. He was pardoned in 1993, after evidence had proven him innocent on the charges that he had incited the riots of February 1968.
Learn more about the Orangeburg Massacre 40th Commemoration Ceremony at SC State on February 8th, 2008.
The Events of February 8th, 1968
South Carolina Responds to the Orangeburg Massacre
The Orangeburg Massacre Today
More Orangeburg Massacre Resources, Books
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