Eight States, Congress). Different races still had negative

Eight to ten unplanned seconds is all it took to harm over thirty young people, and make a mark on history forever. This event is known as the Orangeburg Massacre. During this brief time, police opened gunfire on a group of unarmed African American college students, due to previous racial issues. It all began at a segregated bowling alley just a few weeks before the shooting occurred. The white owners of the bowling alley were only allowing white students to use the bowling lanes, which upset African American students and led to protests and riots at the bowling alley, as well as complications with police. Following these complications, on the night of Thursday, February 8, 1968, a group of African American students gathered on their University of South Carolina campus for a bonfire (Lavender). When police, patrolmen, and firefighters arrived on the scene to put out the fire, arguments broke out and warning shots were misinterpreted, which triggered gunfire to erupt into the crowd of students. Because of racial tensions between African American students and white students, problems increased and led to the compromise of the Orangeburg Massacre involving African American students and patrolmen. During the beginning of 1968, segregation was still present in the south. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, which states “…to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations…to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs…”, but not all people fully acted on this law yet (United States, Congress). Different races still had negative feelings towards each other. In Orangeburg County, South Carolina, things were no different. A bowling alley near the University of South Carolina named the All Star Bowling Lanes was an example of a segregated location during this time. This is also where the conflicts that led to the Orangeburg Massacre were sparked. The owner, Harry K. Floyd, refused to desegregate his building due to the fact that it was private, and did not apply to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although people technically needed to be a member to bowl, which made it private, the establishment contained a lunch counter which meant the Civil Rights Act legally applied. But this did not stop Floyd from keeping the bowling alley illegally segregated, due to his own racist opinions. For the most part, tensions in Orangeburg began on January 29th, 1968, when a group of six African American students entered All Star Bowling Lanes asking for a lane (Edgar). When Floyd refused to let the students play and claimed the bowling alley was private, the students pointed out a white student bowling who was not a member. Floyd simply told all of the students to leave, including the one who was bowling. Just the next week, an even larger group of the African American students arrived at All Star Bowling Lanes. This time Harry Floyd called the police, and the bowling alley was forced to close for the night. But the students were determined to fight for equality. “The following day twenty students were arrested when they returned to the bowling alley” (The Guardian Staff). These students did this in order to make an example and spark the public’s attention on the bowling alley issue. Word very quickly got out about the arrests, and minutes later African American students who were watching a movie in a nearby theatre flooded the streets. Fights between protesters and highway patrolmen broke out, and ten students and one officer had to get treated at the local hospital. But even after the arrested students released, protesters vandalized the white-owned businesses by throwing objects at them. In the following days, the governor of South Carolina, Robert E. McNair, called in 250 national guardsmen and some highway patrolmen to try and prevent the situation from worsening. But this did the exact opposite. Students threw objects at cars on the highway that evening, which led to the highway being blockaded by police. On the night of February 8th, just hours after the highway blockade, a group of African American students gathered for a bonfire on the USC campus. Patrolmen and firefighters arrived on the scene to put out the fire, but evidently, an argument erupted between the two groups. After an object was reportedly thrown at a patrolman by a student, a patrolman fired his gun into the air as a warning to the students. People mistook this as a patrolman firing at a student, and at 10:38 pm the gunfire began. Sixty-six Patrolmen fired into the crowd of unarmed students for about eight to ten seconds with riot guns and short barrel shotguns. Twenty-seven students were injured and three were killed. These people consisted of Samuel Hammond (19), Henry Smith (20), Delano Middleton (17). This event was named the Orangeburg Massacre. As a result, Governor McNair issued a state of emergency amongst South Carolina the following day and set a curfew for all students. Highway patrolmen and police continued to heavily patrol the town. On February 9th at a press conference with the governor, he “called it ‘one of the saddest days in the history of South Carolina’ and expressed concern that the state’s ‘reputation for racial harmony has been blemished'” (Edgar). But at the same time, the governor also announced that he “blamed ‘black power advocates'” for the incident (The Guardian Staff).On February 10th, the All Star Bowling Lanes had suits filed by the Justice Department to be desegregated. On February 11th, around 800 students held a meeting to try and get rid of the National Guard Troops from Orangeburg. Although Patrolmen had claimed that the students shot weapons as well, basic investigations showed that the students were in fact unarmed. “The Associated Press initially misreported the shooting as a ‘heavy exchange of gunfire’- and didn’t correct it” (Bass). Even with this information, the Grand Jury claimed the patrolmen were using self-defense and none of them were indicted, even though the Orangeburg Massacre was never deeply investigated. State investigations for the event were never formally launched contrary to many demands. But, the University of South Carolina holds annual memorial events for the massacre, and a memorial was built on campus for the three students killed during the massacre to show people how racial injustice can lead to fatal consequences. In conclusion, on February 8th, 1968 in Orangeburg County, racial complications involving college students led up to the Orangeburg Massacre on the USC campus. After weeks of disagreements about segregation involving a local bowling alley, vandalization, and protest, the massacre of a group of unarmed African American students at a bonfire was what it all led to. Twenty-seven of these young people were killed and three, unfortunately, faced their death. Although the students were unarmed, none of the nine patrolmen who fired were sentenced, and the crime was passed as self-defense. Memorials are held at USC to remember this day, as well as statues built on campus, but people still feel unhappy with the patrolmen not being convicted.


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