50 YEARS LATER: The 1968 tragedy most people never heard ofBreaking News
tags: Black History, The Orangeburg Massacre
One-half century ago on the night of Feb. 8, 1968, South Carolina Highway Patrolmen fired their weapons into a crowd of black students protesting on the front of the campus of South Carolina State College. Three students were killed and at least 28 were injured. Virtually all of the young men were hit in the back by shotgun pellets and bullets. The shootings were the culmination of lengthy protests against the vestiges of segregation and the persistence of racial discrimination in Orangeburg, especially the “white only” policy of the All-Star Bowling Lanes.
This tragedy that became known locally and across South Carolina as the Orangeburg Massacre received little national attention at the time. Coming two weeks after the North Korean government captured the U. S. Navy vessel The Pueblo and its crew, and only three days after the Tet offensive began in Vietnam, the Massacre was largely ignored by print and electronic media. Nor did subsequent investigations and trials arouse more than regional interest.
The traumatic events of 1968 — President Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to be a candidate, Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, Robert F. Kennedy’s murder, the tumultuous Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s insurgent and ill-tempered candidacy, and Richard Nixon’s political resurrection in the November election — largely relegated the events in Orangeburg to obscurity. Only publication of “The Orangeburg Massacre” by Jack Nelson and Jack Bass helped to keep the story alive. But FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover managed, with some success, to suppress circulation of the book because he believed it was too critical of the Bureau.
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