With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Orangeburg Massacre to George Floyd: How Change Came to SC Protests for Racial Justice

After white state troopers on the S.C. State campus in Orangeburg shot to death three unarmed black students in 1968 and wounded 27 more, protest marches took place afterwards but soon died off.

Those protests were by black students from African-American colleges. Few, if any, whites joined in. Except for a brief flurry of initial stories, the national news media hardly covered what is now known as the “Orangeburg Massacre.”

“They couldn’t generate any support because the governor (Robert McNair) was saying this is something that is going to pass,” Cleveland Sellers, 75, who at the time was a civil rights activist helping to organize students at S.C. State and was wounded in the shooting, told The State last week.

The contrast between protests over the Orangeburg killings of unarmed African Americans in 1968 — a watershed year of upheaval just as 2020 is — and today’s protests over the violent death of a lone black man in police custody in some ways could not be more different.

For one thing, instead of being largely ignored, the May 25 killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, 46, by a white police officer has caused hundreds of thousands — maybe millions of Americans — to hit the nation’s streets in protest. Demonstrations have erupted around the world in places like Australia, Paris, London and small S.C. towns like Boiling Springs as well as in the state’s major cities of Columbia, Charleston and Greenville.

Widespread attention on Floyd’s death has been driven by technology. At the time of his death, Floyd was handcuffed on the ground, the heavy knee of a Minneapolis police officer on his neck, suffocating him to death. It took nearly nine minutes for him to die. A bystander’s cell phone camera captured the event, and social media — not available in 1968 — spread the video, which in turn has led to massive turnouts of people in a short period of time, said Bobby Donaldson, director of the University of South Carolina’s Center on Civil Rights History and Research.

Read entire article at The Charlotte Observer