53rd Orangeburg Massacre Commemoration to pave way for historic initiative to eradicate Racism

ORANGEBURG, S.C. – The historic events leading up to the Orangeburg Massacre on February 8, 1968 remain etched in the minds of many in the Orangeburg community and is deeply rooted in South Carolina State University’s history. In 1968, after three nights of escalating racial tension over efforts by students of then-SC State College, Claflin College and others to desegregate the local All-Star Bowling Lanes, three students were killed and 28 others injured when state highway patrolmen opened fire on unarmed protesters on the SC State campus.

With the theme “Erasing Racism and Constructing Equity (E-RACE),” this year’s virtual commemorative events will explore how the events of 1968 are linked to the social justice efforts in 2021 and how to progress forward.

The events will begin on Thursday, February 4 at 5 p.m. with “UNHEARD: The Female Voices of The Orangeburg Massacre,” a panel discussion with the women who served integral roles in the events leading up to the massacre and after. Dr. Valinda Littlefield, associate professor of history at the University of South Carolina and the female survivors will lead the discussion via Zoom. Advanced registration for both events is required to receive Zoom credentials. Click here to register.

Then, on Monday, February 8 at 11 a.m. prominent civil rights attorney Justin Bamberg will serve as the guest speaker for the 53rd Commemoration Ceremony, that will also be held via Zoom. Click Here to Register.

Commonly known as the attorney for the families of Walter Scott and Kamiyah Mobley, Bamberg has established himself as one of the nation’s foremost attorneys and advocates for civil rights and social justice. The Bamberg, South Carolina native has successfully battled to protect constitutional rights at the local, state and federal levels, using his advocacy skills and the high profile of the cases to provide a voice to those long silenced.

Bamberg is also a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and serves residents in the 90th district which includes – Bamberg County and parts of Barnwell and Colleton counties. He received his undergraduate degree and law degree from University of South Carolina.

Due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, a private wreath laying and memorial flame lighting ceremony will be held at the Smith Hammond Middleton Legacy Plaza, where a monument stands as a tribute to the fatally wounded SC State students, both 19-year-old Henry Smith and Samuel Hammond, and the 17-year-old Wilkinson High School student, Delano Middleton.

This year’s event comes as a precursor to a new initiative aimed at eradicating racism that will be unveiled by the university. University president James E. Clark will announce the establishment of the E-RACE Center. The Eradicating Racism and Constructing Equity (E-RACE) Center of Excellence and Justice will address all aspects of social injustice and racism, both systemic and individual, through research, teaching, training, and service.

Operating under the purview of the Office of the President, the Center will reflect a collaboration between university faculty and external experts on racism, social justice and equity.

“The Orangeburg Massacre was one of the defining moments in the fight for justice for people of color all over the nation,” said University President James E. Clark. “Given this University’s legacy and roots in the Civil Rights movement, we are well-positioned to take on a prominent role in the fight for equity and justice. The E-RACE Center is our path forward.”

These virtual events will be streamed on the SC State University’s and the I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium’s Facebook pages.

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Sam Watson
Director of University Relations | swatson2@scsu.edu | 803-533-3603 (Desk) | 803-747-1223 (Cell)