Bronze busts remember Massacre victims
By: HALLE SPARKS
Mar 02, 2020
The busts were unveiled on Feb. 8, 2020. (Photo special to The Panther by Bradley Harris of The Times and Democrat. Harris is a former editor of The Panther)
The Orangeburg Massacre is often thought of as a forgotten moment in history, but to Orangeburg residents, it is a memory too close to home.
On Feb. 8, 1968, a civil rights protest involving 200 South Carolina State and Claflin students turned into a mass shooting at the hands of South Carolina highway patrolmen, killing three students and injuring 28 at S.C. State.
On Saturday, Feb, 8, South Carolina State University hosted the 52nd anniversary ceremony commemorating the Orangeburg Massacre by unveiling three bronze busts honoring the three lives lost: S.C. State students Henry Smith and Samuel Hammond, and Delano Middleton, a local highway school student.
The unveiling took place at S.C. State’s Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium. The president of the university along with family members of the honoring families were present for the commemoration.
The busts were sculpted by Dr. Tolulope O. Filani, chairman of S.C. State's visual and performing arts department.
Helping to unveil the busts were Vanessa Hughes, Smith's niece; Yvette Davis, Hammond's cousin; and Germaine Middleton, niece of Delano Middleton. The trio was also the featured speakers at the commemoration ceremony.
Although Germaine Middleton never met her uncle, she said if she could rewrite his life, he would be at her birth in 1971 and singing “Oh, How I Love Jesus” with the family during Thanksgiving. The rewriting of Middleton’s story would have avoided the scriptures recited to him in a hospital bed after he was shot, she said.
“I don’t get to write that story, but I do have a story to write," Middleton said. "I will always honor the legacy of Delano Middleton."
Middleton urged individuals to get educated, volunteer and vote in support of the principles of social justice and inequality.
"Let's write histories, let's build legacies and let's write our stories," she said.
Hughes said she believes her uncle knew his stand for justice would matter. "He knew. My uncle exuded intelligence, purpose, righteousness and overachievement."
David said she wants everyone to know Hammond as his loved ones knew him, a charismatic, handsome and articulate person. "Everybody loved him."
After the commemoration and unveiling, Dr. Barbara Williams Jenkins was honored with the 2020 Social Justice Award, as was Filani.
Jenkins, whose life and career has been devoted to S.C. State, said, “We have a rich history. We cannot forget our history.”
Filani said he was “just another little African boy in my village” during the Orangeburg Massacre. Today, he is grateful to be a part of Smith, Hammond and Middleton’s story as the sculptor of the busts.