One might call this one relevant to the task at hand once time has been taken to consider that I have a cousin and a good friend both in school in Orangeburg.
Anyway, the story has it that on this night in 1968, nine Highway Patrol Officers shot up an unarmed – but pissed off – mob protesting the segregation of a bowling alley. This atrocity would leave 3 people dead and something like 28 more injured. Adding to the cowardice of the whole situation, most people shot were shot in their backs.
The protest itself was set in motion by local high school and college students, and was carried out as they arrived throwing bricks and bottles and starting a bonfire.
As the police worked to diffuse the situation, one was apparently hit with thrown debris and now – egos bruised – the age-old police technique of “empty your pistol and lie about it later” would take over. Now, officers fired on them and told in their reports that they heard gunfire, though nothing to substantiate this would surface. As one might expect, all officers were acquitted of any wrongdoing, despite firing on an unarmed crowd, hitting people in the back and beating one pregnant girl with a baton, which caused her miscarriage.
Speaking of “miscarriages,” justice was further miscarried when the ONLY person convicted of anything in the event was one of the protesters, Cleveland Sellers. Ironically, he represented a group called Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, whose name might cause one to infer that their plans did not go over as intended in this incident. His charge was inciting a riot, and he was pardoned 25 years later, after picking his life up and putting it back together here in my hometown of Greensboro, NC.
If anything positive can come from this, I would call it the continued story and success of Sellers AFTER the time he spent locked up. He would complete his masters from Harvard, his Doctorate of Education from UNC Greensboro, direct the African American Studies program at the University of South Carolina (Go Cocks! - yes hetero) and to be selected as President of (no, not Jason) Vorhees College in SC.
Sometimes I do these posts on things bad things that happen to black folks and it still comes out SOMEWHAT positive, but lord knows I ain’t visiting anyone I know in Orangeburg NOW. I know that some wounds don’t heal so easily.
This one was buried under Vietnam protests, and the assassinations of MLK and RFK, so the media coverage that this SHOULD have gotten – even in the months that followed – just didn’t happen, as much as an understandable matter of comparative importance than the one of the darkies getting the short shrift as usual.