Tragedy at Orangeburg: 25 Years Later, Part 3: Wednesday Feb. 7 & Thursday, Feb. 8, 1968


A look at the events of Wednesday Feb. 7 and Thursday, Feb. 8, 1968 during the Tragedy at Orangeburg.

On Wednesday morning, students sought to obtain a permit to march in protest. The City administration countered with a proposal that City officials appear before students in an attempt to answer grievances. The meeting served to highlight the distance between the students' mood and the City officials' understanding of that mood. The list of student grievances, essentially rejected by the City Council, asked basically for adherence to the 1964 Civil Rights Law and the Constitution. Frustrated, the students rampaged for several hours, throwing rocks at cars passing the campus and bearing white passengers. Law enforcement moved quickly to avert traffic and avoid further incident.

On Thursday, students gathered again on the periphery of the campus, once again in a fractious mood. The National Guard moved into active duty with a large concentration of High Patrol and State Law Enforcement officials joining local police. Students were told by Dr. Maceo Nance that in order to maintain their safety, they should remain within the campus borders. Most returned to their dorms, but about 100, mostly male, milled around the edge of the campus. It was cold and a bonfire was set. State troopers moved closer to the entrance, and the students moved back. Students saw a fire truck, a platoon of National Guardsmen, and shadows running through the dark, approaching them. The students started running toward the dormitories, and then part of the crowd stopped and moved back toward the front. The were shots. Someone screamed, "They're shooting at us!" Three students had been killed: Henry Smith, a sophomore from Marion, S.C., Delano Middleton a high school student whose mother worked as a custodian on campus, and Samuel Hammond, a football player from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Twenty-seven others were injured.