South Carolina State University will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Orangeburg Massacre at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8, in the Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center.
The university will pause to remember those martyrs who gave their lives and those who were wounded during the most significant civil rights event in the history of the university. The theme for the event is "50 Years Later: Remembering History, Inspiring Hope and Embracing Healing."
Each year the university remembers, celebrates and commemorates the lives of 18-year-old S.C. State students Henry Smith and Samuel Hammond Jr. and 17-year-old high school student Delano Middleton. The civil rights segment of their sacrifice, although less known than Kent State, changed the university and the surrounding community.
On Feb. 8, 1968, after three nights of escalating racial tension over efforts by students of then-S.C. State College and others to desegregate the local All-Star Bowling Lanes, three students were killed and 28 others were injured when S.C. Highway Patrol troopers opened fire on a crowd of unarmed protesters at the head of the campus.
This year’s venue for the commemorative anniversary will be the SHM Memorial Center, the gymnasium constructed in 1968 in memory of Smith, Hammond and Middleton. After a program and candle-lighting ceremony at SHM, a reception will follow at the I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium. The event is free and open to the public.
“The Orangeburg Massacre is an important part of the university’s history, as well as that of the region and state. We look forward to the community joining us to commemorate the 50th anniversary as we remember those who gave their lives in the name of civil liberties,” said James E. Clark, president of S.C. State.
Fifty years later, the son of Cleveland Sellers, who was wounded in the Orangeburg Massacre and the only person convicted of any crime in connection with the Orangeburg protests, will serve as the keynote speaker.
Bakari T. Sellers was born in 1984 and raised in Denmark. He attended S.C. State’s Felton Laboratory School, graduated from the South Carolina public school system, and then proceeded to Morehouse College. While at Morehouse, he was elected student government association president and served on the college board of trustees. He earned a bachelor's degree in 2005.
Sellers attended the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he graduated in 2008. He has worked for U.S. Congressman James E. Clyburn and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin.
He was the youngest-ever state representative when he was elected to the S.C. House in 2006 at age 22. He served District 90 until 2014.
Sellers has had extensive leadership experience working for the Democratic Leadership Council and Obama for America. He was the 2014 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of South Carolina.
Sellers has been with the Strom Law Firm in Columbia since 2007. He also serves as a CNN political analyst.
He is the son of Dr. and Mrs. Cleveland Sellers. He is married to Ellen Rucker Carter, and they have a daughter, Kai Michelle Carter.
Additional activities of the Orangeburg Massacre commemoration include:
Wednesday, Feb. 7
3 p.m., film documentary, "Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre, 1968"; Judy Richardson, senior producer and director, Fine Arts Building, Barbara Vaughan Recital Hall.
Following "Scarred Justice": "While I Breathe, I Hope," an excerpt from a forthcoming film on Bakari Sellers.
4:30 p.m., Orangeburg Massacre: It’s Meaning and Legacy, featuring Bakari Sellers, Dr. Cleveland Sellers and Judy Richardson, Fine Arts Building, Barbara Vaughan Recital Hall
Thursday, Feb. 8
Noon-3 p.m. -- FREE Bowling, K.W. Green Student Center