50 Years Later: Remembering The Orangeburg Massacre At SC State University
At South Carolina State University, words of hope and healing were shared on an anniversary of death and division.
"They gave something that was more precious than what many could ever fathom giving. Their lives," said Dr. Wes Bellamy, vice mayor of the city of Charlottesville, Virginia.
He was one of the guest speakers at a commemoration of the Orangeburg Massacre inside Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center. The building was named after the victims: Henry Smith, Samuel Hammond, and Delano Middleton.
The ceremony brought together students, alumni, faculty, and anyone who wanted to remember the racial event that scarred the Palmetto state.
"The facts are still so shocking some 50 years later that it is difficult to believe that that event took place right here on this campus," said Colonel Chris Williamson, Commander of the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
He offered reassurement of equal treatment for everyone. It was highway patrolmen who gunned down three black students in a crowd of protesters on February 8, 1968. Dr. Cleveland Sellers was among those involved in a brawl at All-Star Bowling Alley where only whites were allowed.
"38 years after he was arrested and convicted of a riot that never happened proved positive of the American dream that agitator's son becomes a legislator,” said Bakari Sellers, a former state representative and son of Dr. Cleveland Sellers.
"This whole thing started over the fact Mr. Floyd wouldn't allow folks of color into the bowling alley," said John Tecklenburg, mayor of Charleston. He reflected on his years growing up in the segregated city.
"Thinking back fifty years that I was a young boy in Orangeburg, South Carolina where a racial massacre occurred. And then almost fifty years later I'm running for mayor and another racial massacre occurred. I mean when are we going to stop this?!", he said with a raised voice.
Alana Simmons understands what it means to lose a loved one to racism ever since Rev. Daniel Simmons was killed on June 15, 2015.
"My grandfather was actually one of the victims in the Mother Emanuel church massacre," she said.
"Anytime that a commemoration is going on for victims of hate crimes, I like to make sure that we come and support the families."
At South Carolina State, it’s an extended family honoring three young men who played a prominent role in civil rights.