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The youngest of the presidential candidates visited the campus of South Carolina State University on Monday, paying tribute to the Orangeburg Massacre of 1968 and meeting students at the campus’ bowling alley.

Pete Buttigieg, 37, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was accompanied by the university’s president, James E. Clark, and Orangeburg Massacre survivor Cleveland Sellers from the edge of the campus to the monument honoring the fallen and injured.

“It was a powerful experience,” Buttigieg said, “especially because this is a story that is shockingly underrepresented in the teaching of American history. I remember learning about Kent State as a student, but there’s far less attention paid to what happened here in Orangeburg that was so important, so being able to see that was very powerful.”

On Feb. 8, 1968, S.C. Highway Patrol troopers opened fire on a crowd of unarmed protesters, killing three students and wounding 28 others. The protests were in connection with efforts to desegregate the former All-Star Triangle Bowl in Orangeburg.

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard killed four Kent State University students and injured nine. Among the slain and injured were protestors of the Vietnam War.   

After visiting the memorial, Buttigieg went to the student center and bowled with students in the campus’ bowling alley.

He spoke with students and listened to their concerns.

He told The Times and Democrat afterward, “On a very different note, being able to gather with students here at the bowling alley, talking about what is of interest to them. Talking to them about why we think HBCUs are so important and seeing these bright scholars who have futures in fields where black professionals are underrepresented right now; they’re into STEM, they’re going into medicine, they’re going into politics. I was making sure I was able to encourage them and let them know how important this experience is but also share where we’re going and what our proposals are for HBCUs.”

Buttigieg proposes a detailed Douglass Plan, inspired by African American hero Frederick Douglass, which aims to dismantle racist structures and systems combined with intentional and affirmative investments in the freedom and self-determination of black Americans, according to his campaign website.

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“Part of the Douglass Plan, dedicated $50 billion in funding streams for HBCUs and minority-serving institutions with an emphasis on building infrastructures and supporting the cultivation of a next generation of black professionals in areas where there’s not enough representation because so many things won’t be solved until we fix it,” he said.

“For example, we were talking yesterday in Charleston to a group of clinicians and other folks involved in health about health equity issues like the maternal mortality gap. Part of how we get that better is to have more clinicians who are more culturally competent, (such as) more African Americans in the (medical) field,” Buttigieg said.

“Problems with racial justice in policing and recruiting, that we’ve talked about in our own city, get better when cultivating more people to go into that field,” he added.

“So many solutions are already on the campuses of HBCUs, where we need to be investing, and I believe that requires federal dollars,” he said.  

On Tuesday, Buttigieg will participate in a Latino community roundtable discussion in Okatie, in Beaufort County.

On Wednesday, Buttigieg will continue his tour in the South by visiting community leaders in Birmingham, Alabama.

By the end of the week, Buttigieg will be campaigning in New Hampshire and then Iowa.

The Democratic primary in the Palmetto State will be held on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.

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Mayor Pete tours S.C. State
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Mayor Pete tours S.C. State
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Mayor Pete tours S.C. State
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Mayor Pete tours S.C. State
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Mayor Pete tours S.C. State

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Contact the writer: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD

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