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Fifty years ago, on April 28, 1969, more than 30 students at Voorhees College in Denmark took drastic measures to get the administration to listen to their concerns about the college.

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What made the protest so different than other student unrest across America was that they used guns in forcing the faculty, staff and students out of Wilkinson Hall which was the president’s office, the library and other offices.

Fifty years later, the Voorhees College Archives will bring back to the campus Cecil Raysor, Oliver Francis, Michael Moore, James Bryant and James Epps, who participated in the student protest. Moore is the brother of Myra Thompson, who was one of the “Emanuel Nine” that was killed at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in June 2015.

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The commemoration will take place Saturday, April 27, starting at 10 a.m. in the Wright/Potts Library on the campus of Voorhees. The program is open to the public, and lunch will be served between the two-part event.

During the symposium, the former students will share their reflections on their involvement in the protest:

• How did they develop their plans?

• Why did they use guns?

• Why did they select the Wilkinson Building?

• Where did the guns come from?

• How was the list of demands selected?

Some of their demands were:

• That an African American studies program be started.

• Placement of a black person as head of each department.

• Raising the wages of non-academic workers to a minimum of $1.60 an hour.

• Firing of a white professor who was allegedly failing a large number of black students and allegedly falsified information on his job application stating he had graduated from Oxford University in England.

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Because of their method and the manner in which they planned to gain attention from the administration, their actions resulted in them being arrested, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to prison from 18 months to two years.

According to Richard Reid, the historian at Voorhees College, “No other protesting college students across America received this form of punishment as a result of their participation in any unrest on a college campus. In most of those cases, the students received amnesty which was granted by the school’s administration.”

Reid said that the symposium will also include news footage that was recorded and documented from ABC, CBS and NBC television networks. Also, adiscussion of the Voorhees College event will be conducted by an academic panel that will include Dr. Ramon Jackson, Dr. Albert Jabs and other professors.

Former president of Voorhees College and civil rights activist Dr. Cleveland Sellers Jr. will moderate the symposium.

For more information, contact Voorhees historian Richard Reid at 803-780-1225 or 803-837-1522 or by email at rreid@voorhees.edu.

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