S.C. State hosts commemoration ceremony in honor of the 55th anniversary of Orangeburg Massacre
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Wednesday marked the 55th anniversary of one of the most violent episodes of the civil rights movement.
The Orangeburg Massacre happened at the S.C. State Campus back in 1968 after highway patrolmen shot at hundreds of Black students from both S.C. State and Claflin University following days of peaceful protests.
Three died and dozens of others were injured after a group of students from both colleges began protesting to integrate a segregated bowling alley located in Orangeburg County.
“To me it seems like only yesterday,” said Cecil Williams.
The Orangeburg Massacre paved the way for many students currently attending S.C. State and Claflin University. Those students piled into the auditorium Wednesday morning to pay their respects.
“I can remember every moment, every face, every date,” said Cecil Williams.
Cecil Williams is a well-renowned photographer and owner of the first civil rights museum.
He captured these photos of that night and presented them during the commemoration on Wednesday. They tell the story of the protests brought on by the All-Star Triangle Bowling Alley.
Students from both Claflin and S.C. State called for the bowling alley to be integrated, but their calls fell on deaf ears.
“And on February 8th 1968 one highway patrol men opened fire on the students and of course that ended it. But of course, later on the bowling lanes opened up. So we did accomplish something, but unfortunately, it took blood, sweat, and tears and the death of students to make this happen,” said Williams.
College freshman Samuel Hammond Jr., 17-year-old Delano Middleton, whose mother worked at S.C. State, and 18-year-old Henry Smith were all shot and killed by those highway patrol men. Another 28 other students were injured.
“This is Bobby Eaddy, my husband, a survivor of the Orangeburg Massacre,” said Patsy Eaddy, a former student at SC State.
Patsy Eaddy, is also a survivor. During Wednesday’s ceremony, she accepted the 2023 Social Justice awards on behalf of her late husband Bobby Edan. She says she was in her dorm in Manning hall the night of the chaos.
“Sam and my husband Bobby were very good friends, and they were at the dorm visiting me and they went over to the dome, and I remember them saying no you can’t come we don’t want the girls to come,” said Eaddy.
She then heard the shots. A sound she says stuck with her forever.
Eaddy says “I just can remember being so afraid, wanting to be home with my family, but afraid for my family to come get me because of what may happen to them. I just remember being so torn, so hurt and so afraid.”
She says sometimes she feels those same sparks from that night.
“The question is still there how far have we come? we’re taking steps forward but we’re taking steps backwards,” she says.
Today’s commemoration ended with a torch lighting ceremony here in front of these statues remembering those lives lost. Ellen Zischoltz, the president of the Center for Creative Partnerships, and Bobby Doctor, a civil rights activist were also rewarded the 2023 Social Justice Award.
The All-Star Triangle Bowling alley was the center of that massacre. It closed down back in 2007. A local organization is working to renovate the alley and make it fully operational again.
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