South Carolina State University will commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Orangeburg Massacre on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, at 11 a.m. in the Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center (SHM). The University will pause to remember those martyrs whose lives were taken that February night in 1968, and those that were wounded during the most significant civil rights event in the history of the state of South Carolina.
The theme for the event is 50 Years Later: Remembering History, Inspiring Hope and Embracing Healing.
Each year since 1968, the University has held an observance to commemorate the lives of 18-year-old SC State students Henry Smith and Samuel Hammond Jr., 17-year-old high school student Delano Middleton. This often neglected and overlooked tragedy is not nearly as well known as the shootings at Kent State and Jackson State in 1970, although it had a profound effect on the Orangeburg community and surrounding area.
On Feb. 8, 1968, after three nights of escalating racial tension over efforts by students of then-SC State College and others to desegregate the local All-Star Bowling Lanes, three students were killed and at least 28 others were injured when S.C. Highway Patrolmen opened fire on a crowd of unarmed protesters at the front of campus.
This year’s venue for the commemorative anniversary will be held at the SHM Memorial Center, the physical education facility constructed in 1968 in honor of Smith, Hammond, and Middleton. There will be a program and candle lighting ceremony at SHM, followed by a reception and book signing in the IP Stanback Museum and Planetarium. The event is free and open to the public.
“The Orangeburg Massacre is an important part of the University’s history, as well as that of the region and state. We look forward to the community joining us to commemorate the 50th Anniversary as we remember those who gave their lives in name of civil liberties,” said James E. Clark, president of SC State.
Bakari Sellers will serve as the keynote speaker. He is the son Cleveland Sellers who was one of those wounded in the Orangeburg Massacre and the only person convicted of any crime in connection with the Orangeburg protests. Bakari Sellers was born in 1984 and raised in Denmark, South Carolina. Sellers attended SC State’s Felton Laboratory School, graduated from the South Carolina public school system, and then enrolled at Morehouse College. While at Morehouse, he was elected Student Government Association President and served on the College’s Board of Trustees. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2005.
After graduating from Morehouse College, Bakari Sellers attended the University of South Carolina School of Law where he graduated in 2008. He has worked for United States Congressman James Clyburn and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. He was one of the youngest State Representatives and the youngest black elected official in the United States at the time.
Sellers has had extensive leadership experience working for the Democratic Leadership Council, and Obama for America campaign. He is a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. He was elected to the House at the age of 23 in 2006 and represented the 90th District until 2014. He was a member of the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus during his time in the general assembly. He was a candidate for Lt. Governor of South Carolina in 2014. Sellers has been an attorney with the Strom Law Firm, L.L.C. in Columbia, SC since 2007. He also serves as a CNN Political Analyst.
Sellers is the son of Dr. and Mrs. Cleveland Sellers. He is married to Ellen Rucker Carter and they have a daughter, Kai Michelle Carter.