This week marks the 53rd anniversary of the Orangeburg Massacre.
To this day, the Orangeburg Massacre is documented in history as one of the most violent episodes of the civil rights movement but remains one of the least recognized massacres in the mainstream media.
What Sparked Orangeburg Massacre?
Harry K. Floyd, the owner of the local All-Star Bowling Alley, refused to allow African Americans into his establishment. His decision was a breach of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
On February 5, 1968, a group of around 40 students from South Carolina State University and were asked to leave by Floyd. The students left peacefully. The following night, more students returned to the bowling alley, led by John Stroman. When the students showed up at the bowling alley, police officers were waiting for them, and they were arrested.
More students began showing up to protest the arrests, and the police started beating student protesters with billy clubs, hospitalizing eight students.
On February 8, 1968, three students were killed and 28 others injured when South Carolina highway patrolmen opened fire on a crowd of unarmed protesters on the SC State campus.
Approximately 120 armed National Guardsmen, state highwaymen, and local police officers were deployed to SC State’s campus borders. An additional 450 troops were stationed downtown.
This followed three nights of intensifying racial tension as students of then-SC State College, Claflin College, and others rallied for the local All-Star Bowling Lanes’ desegregation.
Henry Smith and Samuel Hammond were fatally shot that night along with 19-year-old Wilkinson High School student Delano Middleton.
The following day, Governor Robert McNair held a press conference in where he called it “one of the saddest days in the history of South Carolina,” referring to the shootings as an “unfortunate incident.” McNair also blamed “Black power advocates,” for the violence.
After decades of refusing to the deaths of Smith, Hammond and Middleton, McNair finally addressed the incident in his 2006 biography, “South Carolina at the Brink: Robert McNair and the Politics of Civil Rights,” written by Philip G. Grose. “The fact that I was governor at the time placed the mantle of responsibility squarely on my shoulders, and I have borne that responsibility with all the heaviness it entails for all those years,” he said.
TheHub.News remembers all of the brave students, who rallied for change in South Carolina as well as the three, courageous Black men who lost their lives that night.