February 2014

Orangeburg Massacre

On February 6, 1968, South Carolina State college students attempted to bowl at Orangeburg’s only bowling alley, the All-Star Bowling Lane. The owner refused, tensions escalated and violence erupted. When it ended, nine students and one city policeman received hospital treatment for injuries, while other students were treated at the college infirmary.

Two days later, on February 8, 1968, a fire truck was called to douse a bonfire lit by students on a street in front of the campus. State troopers — all of them white, with little training in crowd control — moved in to protect the firemen. As more than 100 students retreated inside the campus, a student tossed a banister rail, which struck a trooper in the face. He fell to the ground, bleeding. Five minutes later, almost 70 law enforcement officers lined the edge of the campus. They were armed with carbines, pistols, and shotguns.

Students began returning to watch as the bonfire was extinguished, a trooper fired several shots from his carbine into the air — apparently intended as warning shots. As other officers began firing, students fled in panic or dove for cover. By the time the shooting ended, three people were dead and 27 injured, many of whom were shot in their back or side or even in the soles of their feet.

The three fatalities were Samuel Hammond, a freshman from Fort Lauderdale, FL; Henry Smith, a sophomore from Marion, SC; and Delano Middleton, a seventeen-year-old youth from Orangeburg.

Immediately following the incident, South Carolina National Guardsmen were sent to Orangeburg to prevent further acts of violence. Nine patrolmen were ultimately tried, and after pleading self-defense, acquitted. Photo courtesy of Cecil Williams.