New Orangeburg Massacre memorial dedicated

Feb 14, 2022

Dr. Cleveland Sellers Jr., is seated to the left of SC State Interim President Alexander Conyers.  (Panther photo by Faith Lomax)

South Carolina State University marked the 54th anniversary of the Orangeburg Massacre on Tuesday, Feb. 8, by consecrating a new monument in memory of the three young men killed in the 1968 tragedy that happened near its campus.

On Feb. 8, 1968, state troopers fired into a crowd of students with shotguns, using ammunition powerful enough to kill game animals. Three students were killed and 28 wounded.

Those three students were Henry Smith, Samuel Hammond Jr. and a 17-year-old high school student, Delano Middleton, whose mother worked at S.C. State.

The shooting occurred just days after students were protesting for the desegregation of All-Star Bowling, whose owner refused to follow the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Each year, SC State honors Smith, Hammond and Middleton along with their family and survivors.

During this year's commemoration, not only did the university expand the Smith-Hammond-Middleton Legacy Plaza by adding busts of the young men, it established the Smith-Hammond-Middleton Social Justice Award.

The recipients included the SC State College Class of 1971 and Gloria Pyles, Title III director at SC State.

The keynote speaker for the ceremony was civil rights activist, educator and Orangeburg Massacre survivor Dr. Cleveland Sellers Jr.

Sellers, who had been on the forefront of the civil rights movement since the age of 15, was the only person convicted of a crime from the events of Feb. 6 through Feb. 8, 1968, with the last event being the Orangeburg Massacre.

“It has been covered up and continues to be covered up,” Sellers said.

Sellers went on to state that, “The state of South Carolina has taken absolutely no action in reconciling this issue.”

Dr. Sellers took a slight pause while speaking, which sent an emotional wave across the room.

“This is why I don’t do this anymore,” sad Sellers in referring to speaking about the tragic event publicly.

“No truth, no reconciliation, no restoration, no constitution, nothing, not a thing,” Sellers said.

Sellers emphasized that we need not to repeat the failure to receive justice for the incident of 1968 but to “get it right now.”

The nine state patrolmen who were charged with using excessive force by the federal government were acquitted.

“Sellers, who was characterized as the instigator of the demonstrations, served nine months in prison on a rioting charge. He received a full pardon 25 years after the Orangeburg Massacre but elected to keep the charge on his record as a ‘badge of honor,’” the university wrote.

“Most people don’t know about the PTSD we go through,” Sellers stated.

In Sellers’ concluding statement, he told survivors of those slain and others impacted by the events of 1968, “You have a chapter you need to write on the Orangeburg Massacre and tell your story.”

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