Reporting from the Orangeburg Massacre ceremony on Feb. 8 at SCSU

By: Panther staff
Feb 10, 2018

interview valaya burke

Carrie Houser James at the Orangeburg Massacre ceremony on Feb. 8, 2018. (Panther photo by Valaya Burke)

Special connections to fateful night


Carrie Houser James, an Orangeburg native, was the mistress of ceremony for a pageant in downtown Orangeburg during the night of the Massacre.

Q: What brings you here to the 50th anniversary of the Orangeburg Massacre observance?

A: It is an annual tradition for me. The reason it is an annual tradition for me is the night of the Massacre, I was the Mistress of Ceremony for a pageant at Stevenson Auditorium (near downtown Orangeburg).Towards the end of the program is when we got the message of what had happened at South Carolina State. Needless to say, there were a few tears. The only time I missed this celebration was when I was living in Washington, D.C. But if I am anywhere near this city, I will be here.

Interesting facts about James’ relation to the Orangeburg Massacre:

  • She knew Delano Middleton, one of the men shot and killed that night. Middleton played basketball at Wilkinson High School, whereJames also played basketball.
  • She knew Henry Smith's sister. Smith was one of the three casualties of the Orangeburg Massacre. James knew Smith' s sister by them both being students at the University of South Carolina.

Other significant quotes by James about the Orangeburg Massacre:

  • “I feel like they have turned back the hands of time. The same issues of racism and discrimination are alive and well today.”
  • “I want us to know our history more than anything else.”
  • “If you don't know your history, you're bound to repeat it.”
  • “This (Orangeburg Massacre) is a part of my heritage. I don't ever want to see it die or go away, and I hope the college students here realize that.”
  • “I'm a firm believer that if you don't know your history, you're bound to repeat it: the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

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Officer Terris Green looks at displays before the Feb. 8, 2018, ceremony at Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center.

‘I would get to be part of something’


Officer Terris Green: "I am here because I work for the State of South Carolina police department and I am here working. I remember reading about the Massacre after it happened. When I got this assignment, it meant more to me that I would get to be a part of something I read in the news and being able to be here during Black History Month makes it truly special. Even though I'm working. it is still nice." 

A learning experience


Alexis Reese: “I’m a first year student at Claflin University and today was my first time hearing about the Orangeburg Massacre. I learned today that the Orangeburg Massacre left three people dead and 27 others wounded that were protesting the segregation of black patrons. I feel that this is something that people will never forget.”

Came to ceremony to learn more


Jasmine Davis: “I came here today in honor of SCSU history and to learn more about the Orangeburg Massacre.”


‘Black people … know the truth’


Idella Felder: “I came for the history and the truth about what happened years ago -- even though we as black people in the community know what happened and know the truth.”

State turns against people


Dr. Alison McLetchie on the Orangeburg Massacre: "It is an example of how the state can turn against its own people in the fight for constitutional rights."


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