Segments in this Video

A Good Old Southern Country Town (02:48)


Still a Jim Crow town, Blacks were the majority in 1960s Orangeburg, South Carolina, but whites held all the power. Its two black colleges gave the town an educated black middle class.

Seeking Participation in the American Dream (01:59)

Orangeville students and the black community mounted repeated protests. By 1968, all but the hospital, doctor's offices, and a bowling alley were desegregated. Hear about one black war veteran who was not allowed to bowl.

Monday, February 5, 1968 (01:04)

A small group of protesters went to the bowling alley. Owner Harry Floyd states his reasons for not admitting blacks on local TV. Over the next three days one of the most violent yet little-known events of the Civil Rights movement took place.

Orangeburg, South Carolina: Tuesday, February 6, 1968 (03:53)

WItnesses and participants of the protest at the bowling alley recall the night of chaos and violence when police, locals, and protesters clashed.

Wednesday, February 7, 1968 (02:07)

South Carolina Governor Robert McNair urged the demonstrators to take their case to the courts. The town's reaction to the protesters was mixed. McNair was a Southern racial moderate who had intervened on behalf of the students a year earlier.

Cities on Fire Across America (02:02)

In 1968, black neighborhoods across the country exploded in riots of violence and destruction. Merchants were convinced there would be rioting in Orangeburg. Rumors were rampant. The fear focused on new protest leader Cleveland Sellers.

Increasing Militancy (01:14)

Cleveland Sellers wanted to introduce black history to the curriculum. He had been with an organization calling for black power, so he was branded a militant. Sellers was being watched by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

Official Reaction in Orangeburg (03:01)

With tensions rising, Governor McNair was determined to maintain law and order. He sent in the National Guard. The mayor and city council came to address the students. That night, law enforcement was to confine students to campus.

Thursday, February 8, 1968 (02:05)

It was a cold, eerie day in Orangeburg. 120 armed state and local police amassed across the street from the two colleges. An additional 450 were stationed downtown. Overseeing the law enforcement effort was Chief Pete Strom.

Putting Out the Fire (01:40)

Around 10 pm a bonfire was built near the entrance to State College which attracted about 150 students. The fire got bigger and police decided to put it out. 66 police protected the firemen. The students backed off.

All Hell Breaks Loose (02:10)

The police were prepared to do what was needed to keep order. After a protester hit a policeman with a banister, the police moved forward. Then bullets started flying. Wails went up from the crowd. After 10-15 seconds, the shooting stopped.

Students Killed, Wounded (02:52)

Protesters recall being shot at, some of them hit. 28 students were shot and wounded. Three were killed: Samuel Hammond, Delano Middleton, and Henry Smith.

Cleveland Sellers Wounded (01:55)

Students and faculty rushed the wounded to Orangeburg's segregated hospital. Robert Davis recalls the experience. Among the wounded was Cleveland Sellers. The sheriff took him into custody.

Black Power Blamed (03:26)

South Carolina officials felt their good civil rights reputation had been ruined. They laid the blame on Cleveland Sellers and the black power movement. Sellers was charged with inciting a riot. Sellers believed there was a conspiracy against him.

Conflicting Views of Black Power (03:04)

By 1968 many Americans were afraid the civil rights movement had turned radical. The new call for power resonated among young blacks, but for many Americans, it meant violence. Sellers says it was about political empowerment, not violence.

Media Blames Black Power (01:31)

For most Americans, Orangeburg was just another riot incited by black militants. But black students in South Carolina protested. Martin Luther King, Jr. said the students' deaths lie on the conscience of South Carolina officials.

A Lot of Dead to Carry Home (02:11)

Roy Wilkins, head of the NAACP, challenged the state's version of the shootings, saying there was no exchange of gunfire; the students were unarmed. Some felt that police opening fire on unarmed students was unthinkable in America.

March 2003 Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina Conference (01:36)

Decades later, the Orangeburg shootings still stir anger and disbelief, and repeated calls for a state investigation. Some argue that an investigation wouldn't help the healing process. A question is raised: What if the students had been white?

FBI Investigates Police Abuse of Power (02:13)

In 1968, immediately following the shootings, the Justice Department ordered the FBI to investigate. It was soon apparent the FBI was covering for the police. But the investigation found no evidence of guns being fired by the students.

Patrolmen Not Guilty (03:13)

The nine patrolmen who admitted shooting at the students went on trial in 1969. The case rested on the question of self-defense. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty within a few hours. People are still outraged over the verdict.

Black Power on Trial (02:07)

In 1970, Cleveland Sellers was put on trial for rioting on the night of the shootings. Sellers couldn't be linked to the shootings. But the charges were switched to the bowling alley protests. Sellers was found guilty and sentenced to one year hard labor.

The Events of February 8, 1968 (03:10)

Many continued to demand answers to what really happened in Orangeburg. In 2006, Cleveland Sellers' son was elected to the state legislature. He called for an investigation into the shootings. He spoke at a memorial at South Carolina State College.

A Dark Day in Our History (02:11)

Numerous participants on both sides of the tragic events of February 8, 1968 in Orangeburg, South Carolina share their perspective on what happened and how they felt.

A Place in Civil Rights History (01:46)

Nobody was held accountable for the Orangeburg Massacre. There were trials but no convictions. But history may judge differently. Orangeburg belongs with the other major events in civil rights history. Cleveland Sellers was later pardoned.

Credits: Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968 (01:12)

Credits: Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968

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Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968

3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



The killing of four white students at Kent State University in 1970 left an indelible stain on the national consciousness, but most Americans know nothing of the three black students killed at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg two years earlier. This documentary offers the definitive account of that tragic incident and reveals the environment that allowed it to be buried for so long. Although home to a majority black population, in 1968 Orangeburg still clung to Jim Crow traditions. When a black Vietnam War veteran was denied access to a local bowling alley protestors converged on the site, and what began as a nonviolent demonstration ended with the wounding of 28 students and the slaying of three. The film interviews key participants on both sides of the tragedy, some of whom speak about the Massacre for the first time. (57 minutes)

Length: 57 minutes

Item#: BVL49789

Copyright date: ©2009

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“The truth-telling power of history is made manifest in this profoundly moving and healing documentary.”  —Darlene Clark Hine, Michigan State University  


“This documentary should be shown in every schoolroom in America. We might then create a new generation of activists, emulating the heroic young people of that time, moving this country towards new levels of equality and justice.”  —Howard Zinn    


“This masterful film tells a story previously known by too few. Among its many lessons is the truth of the phrase ‘no justice, no peace.’”  —Julian Bond, NAACP Board Chairman


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