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Racism and the Orangeburg Massacre

Updated on April 2, 2017

Daytona Beach and Arlington Cemetery

Daytona Beach, Florida
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Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery | Source


If you ever had the opportunity to swim in a large body of water or one of the oceans, most likely you felt the unsuspecting tug of an undertow at your legs and feet. One moment there is the calm serenity of sparkling diamonds, reflecting a bright promising sun off of softly rolling waves. The senses have been purged of negative thoughts as you dive into a sea of normalcy, only to realize things aren’t what they appear to be. There is an undercurrent or perhaps a rip tide of sorts and no matter how hard you fight, your struggle seems relentless. How could life be so commonplace one minute and yet turn deadly the next? This scenario fits perfectly into the air of racism within the United States. Even in today’s climate, the pure evilness of bigotry and hatred are always just beneath the surface of an otherwise routine life.


I’m a firm believer that racism, biases, and bigotry are learned behaviors. I grew up in a home filled with acceptance and understanding for all people. My parents always looked for the goodness in others and never did they cast dispersions or slang names for any group of people. Circa 1958 – 1959 my mother had taken me on an educational tour of Washington, D.C. Mom became increasingly agitated and angry when a taxi driver was continually attempting to educate us “white northerners” in the use of every derogatory and demeaning description a person could direct at African Americans. I watched my mother reach a personal boiling point in record time when she first scolded the driver and secondly instructed him to stop the cab and drop us off. Needless to say, the cabbie did not get a tip.


As an adult, I became friends with a business associate who, as a child, lived in a small southern town in Georgia where I had experienced my first harsh reality about hatred of African Americans. Our business relationship and being a part of history together was a prime example of us all being connected. For you see, when I was 7 years old and visiting in Hinesville, Georgia my aunt scolded me in front of her “colored help” because I was talking to this young lady. With my aunt’s finger pointing directly at this lovely woman who was busily preparing our dinner, I was told, “Denny, you see that woman there? Well, son, you are not to talk with, eat with and NEVER sleep with the coloreds! You understand me, boy?” I was mortified, frightened and even at my young age, I was sickened. I am now in my sixth decade and those words of ignorance and hate have never left me. In a strange twist of events, in the late 1970’s my company in Central New York had flown in our Field Representatives from around the country. It was decided we would all go to an upscale Irish tavern/restaurant for dinner and a chance to get to know each other. Andrew and I were the first to arrive and be seated. Eventually, everyone else showed up and we all placed our orders. Even though we were the first to order, our dinners did not arrive. I felt myself fuming with indignation and finally, I called over the waitress. I asked if there was a problem at our table or was our order simply misplaced? You see, Andrew was my friend, a co-worker and an African American.


Those in our party were nearly finished eating when we eventually received our meals. This gave Andrew and me a chance to get to know each other better. I mentioned my Georgia experience and the town it happened in. Andrew’s jaw dropped. He sat across from me with a look of shock. He was born and lived in Hinesville, where his grandfather was a doctor. He went on to state that as a boy in the Boy Scouts, his dad had taken him to Savannah to purchase his uniform. These were Andrew’s words: “So dad had taken me to Savannah to buy me a Boy Scout uniform. It was a great day when all of a sudden my father told me to grab his hand, run and not look back. Well, of course, I had to look and marching right up the middle of the street was the Ku Klux Klan. When we got back home my father announced we were moving to Chicago and we left Hinesville immediately.” I called my great aunt in Georgia (she was now in her 90’s) and asked if she remembered Andrew’s family name. She thought for a moment and said she did recall his grandfather was a doctor, but he could only treat the “colored folk.” In my last conversation with my aunt, she said, “You know Denny Lee, I’ve changed some too with the times. I know you can talk and now eat with black people, but please don’t sleep with them.” I guess, in the Old South this is considered progress.


In February 1968, the city of Orangeburg, South Carolina, with a population of around 14,000 and home to South Carolina State was beginning to feel the winter’s heat of racial change and the white populace was not receptive to the idea. The stage was set for the drama that would play out in a life and death scenario. The main prop was a bowling alley and the stars were young African Americans and the villains were the racially charged white business owners and white policemen. Over a three-day period, actions resulted in deadly reactions.


The All Star Bowling Lanes had rigorously fought to remain segregated until a South Carolina State junior decided to change the status quo. On February 6th, the student organizer and fellow students entered the bowling alley and proceeded to sit at the counter. Every item they touched was thrown in the garbage, including a salt shaker which ultimately became symbolic of a race being treated as though they were less than human. While not being deterred, John Stroman, the student organizer explains, he went over to the jukebox and touched it. He then said to the owner, “Now throw this in the trash can.” The owner became enraged and called the police. On the second evening, the student protesters were met by local and state police. Bricks and rocks were thrown at the bowling alley while numerous students were beaten and bloodied by law enforcement officers and over a dozen arrested. It was a cold night on February 8th as the student protesters lit a bonfire which resulted in police and fire personnel being called to the scene. 100 students fled to the campus when someone threw an object and hit a policeman. Soon more than 70 policemen opened up with a barrage of bullets from shotguns, revolvers, and carbines. When the melee ended, three students were dead and twenty-seven had been seriously wounded. The Orangeburg Massacre was the first of its kind on a United States college campus.


Unlike Kent State when the National Guard killed four white students and wounded nine others on May 4, 1970, the media remained fairly quiet surrounding the killings and shootings at South Carolina State. No songs were written or sung on nationwide radio stations. Basically, the Orangeburg incident was brushed aside and almost forgotten until the documentary “Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968” was produced and started being shown on college campuses. Personally, I believe every high school history class should incorporate this into their study of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Carnage Continues

Since writing this article, the killing of African Americans has continued, with little to no repercussions for those who have murdered unarmed victims. The downward spiral is in free fall mode now and I don't see it ending positively.

Tom Brokaw Highlights The Orangeburg Massacre 1968


My oldest daughter was only about 4 years old as she splashed in her wading pool on a hot summer day. Heather’s beautiful strawberry blond hair hung in ringlets, similar to Shirley Temple’s. Two little rich sisters who lived a couple of doors away came over to join in the fun until Derrick; a boy in their same age group put his feet in the water. Both sisters jumped out of the pool and loudly exclaimed, “Eww!” My daughter immediately placed her hands on her tiny hips and replied, “Derrick is black and so what!” I peered through the sliding glass doors with so much pride I thought my heart would jump out of my chest. My question to everyone all these years later is simply why are we unable to find the wisdom in a child’s words and just say, “So what?”


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    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 2 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Thank you for writing about this massacre. I have never heard of it. It has always been my thinking that we must be a voice for human and environmental justice, because if we do not, we are as guilty as the ones perpetrating the injustice. I think I was born with a call to earn my place on the planet. It is distressing to see human and environmental protections disappearing at such a pace.

    • profile image

      Hubert Williams 4 years ago

      Very well written article. Prejudice and bigotry should have no place in the world today. A sad thing is that I said the same thing thirty years ago, and fifteen years before that. People instill their hatreds into their children before they even start school. Change will never occur under those circumstances.

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 5 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      Thank you again for this lesson. I wonder how we (both Canadians and those in the U.S.) would feel if China took over both countries, restricted us to certain areas, took away our food sources and then denied us an equal education? Those in power never think that there may be someone else out there ready, willing and able to trump their rights, as well.

    • HLPhoenix profile image

      HLPhoenix 5 years ago

      I'm not clear whether or not various Native American Tribe boundaries crossed what became Canada and the USA. I do know that the two different governments took control over those folk within their artificially created boundaries. So if they were part of the same tribes they were separated by their conquerors.

      The goal should be an equal playing field for all... it is interesting which States are most vehemently opposed to that concept to this day.

      Not that all other states don't have their share of anti-equality folk.

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 5 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      @HLPhoenix - I appreciate you stopping by and for educating me on your own experience with Canadians versus Native Americans. I never knew there was a divide between the two groups.

      Since the beginning of time there have always been those who frown and look down upon others. Personal egos and power are stroked by demeaning other segments of society and it isn't just centered around skin color. Religion, sexual preference, ethnicity, north, south, east, west, career paths and even various sports teams all have a common theme. Some within each of these groups will feel superiority over those of another group. The problems occur when there is a manifestation of suppressing an equal playing field for all, favoring instead just a few. It all boils down to a bully mentality and quite frankly, it sickens me.

    • HLPhoenix profile image

      HLPhoenix 5 years ago

      comment continued... yet I never consciously came across this event.

      Your personal story mixed with the horror of the event... and how, some (more than some) still persist in this irrational hatred, really brought this episode and our continuing 'race' problem into the light.

      Voted up and Sharing.

    • HLPhoenix profile image

      HLPhoenix 5 years ago

      Thanks for this... we need more Hubs like this written by non-African Americans. I too grew up with parents that never said anything negative about other groups... perhaps it was they belonged to a group that was/is 'hated' by so many with out ever being met.

      The 'kick the cat' group where I grew up in Canada were Native Canadians. I learned my first lessons in the lack of social justice as a young teen trying to get a native american girl enrolled in school. My mother told me to go do it myself... when I found out this girl could not enrole in our public schools because she was a 'reservation indian.' I was not successful... the powers that be wanted her to give up her Reservation Rights... in order to enrole in school... she just had a 6th grade education.

      I am surprised that I had no idea about the massacure you describe... I had an avid if distant interest in the American Civil Rights Movement.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Thanks, Dennis, the candor of your account here is in stark contrast to so many that say that all this racism stuff is just a figment of our imagination, Hardly!

      We have made progress but with the attitudes toward our current Commander and Chief, I have to wonder if the 'change' was merely of a strong cosmetic nature. And the objection to the President goes far beyond disagreement with his political philosophy or ideology.

      I do remember going into the South in the late 50's as child, near Dallas and experiencing segregated drinking fountains.

    • profile image

      Petra 5 years ago

      Glad your thoughts are much different than you mother's. She was very racist even after moving to the south. Her view of blacks were degrading. God rest her soul.

    • Laurinzo Scott profile image

      Live To Write 5 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

      Thank you for writing this very important piece... you see this is the kind of voice that needs to be heard ... the human voice, and it's unique experience. Rather that experience and that voice comes from black, white, red, or green man is not important as human voices being heard.

      When I look throughout human history beyond the cruel acts of white men, and black, oriental, or hispanic; what have you... the bottom line is man's inhumanity to man.

      God bless your folks for being stand up kinda people which I am sure was not easy then because to be human in this ugly world can sometimes cost you your life. This is a sad but true story of how we are to each other.

      But one day it will change ...perhaps when HE comes back, and not a minute too soon I might add!

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 5 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      @ ImKarn23 - Thanks again, friend. I did get burned out after the election, but this story, in particular, took the starch out of me. I spent about a week putting this together and it wiped me out. Not unlike you Ms. L. I put my heart and soul into what I write and although I fail miserably at marketing my pieces, I do strive for quality over quantity, even if there are only a few readers. I do have some ideas for future stories, but geez Louise, I've been so busy with other things I feel like Gumby being stretched.

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 5 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      @ fpherj48 - I owe you an apology in my long overdue acknowledgement of your response. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read and comment on this article. It is so frustrating when there are elements within our society who wish to bury an ugly past and ultimately they just recreate the same mistakes and continual fuel to the fire of hatred towards others. I didn't understand that type of behavior as a child and now that I'm in my 6th decade I understand it even less. I thought we would have all matured much more quickly regarding biases and racism, but its ugliness is still with us today.

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 5 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      @ Picadilly - Thank you for your comment and "yes" I was and still am very proud of my daughter. I have such a difficult time understanding why people find it so hard in accepting others that may not look like them or come from other countries or cultures.

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 5 years ago

      I think you got burnt out after the election - and - i completely

      but..that's enough time off, my friend..back to the keyboard with you!

      You are too talented not to write - and i am too busy to have to come back for sloppy seconds simply for the memories..



    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Dennis....I went through several emotions and thoughts as I read this.....None stronger than my admiration of your internal wisdom, even at a young age.....When something just feels wrong.....and we know we must avoid ignorance at all speaks volumes of one's natural character!...UP+++

    • picadilly profile image

      Priscill Anne Alvik 5 years ago from Schaumburg, IL

      Great post Mr. D.!!! I would be proud of your little daughter too!!! Love me!!!

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 5 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      @ shiningirisheyes - I certainly appreciate you taking the time to read and respond to my article. I happened upon a news story surrounding the Orangeburg Massacre and was shocked I had never heard of it before, thus the reason for this article.

      What happened to you and your friend at the deli counter bears witness to the fact that racism is alive and still thriving in the 21st century. I don't understand where the deep rooted hatred comes from and I really don't care. All I know is it has to stop if we are ever going to grow as caring, accepting human beings.

      I too agree that it is wonderful to share this space with you, as well.

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 5 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      @ always exploring - Thank you for your response. I agree with you regarding our younger generation seeing people for who they are rather than their skin color. To me "Hope and Change" begins with acceptance of others.

      I guess when people hate Obama they're actually only hating half of him, considering his other half is white. I honestly and sincerely don't understand how some think and behave. I just don't get it.

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 5 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      @ Darlene Chimber Kane - Thank you for taking time to read and comment Darlene. I'm so glad we grew up in the North Syracuse and Cicero areas where racially charged people were virtually nonexistent.

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 5 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      @ ImKarn23 - As always your vote of confidence is accepted with open arms. Yes, the video worked well and I owe it all to the help you gave me. Also, I will be learning more about sharing hubs of others in order for us all to practice the motto of one good turn deserves another.

      I have always been outspoken when witnessing injustices. I loathe bullies and shallow minded people who only see black and white. The my way or the highway mentality drives me nuts. I think it is normal not to like certain people, but it shouldn't be based on skin color. Generally I know within a few minutes of meeting someone new whether or not I like them. My conclusion may be based on body language, opinions, actions, beliefs and behaviors, but never is it based on race or ethnicity.

      Thank you again for your comment and continued support and of course, for your help.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Dennis - I commend you and thank you for writing such a stellar and important reminder so none should be too quick to forget the unending struggle of so many God loving individuals. Our country hasn't a very "stellar" record of treating everyone equally. I hate to be the voice of pessimism in the crowd but I still see strong and all-too-frequent reflections of this today. My best friend is black and we were going to meet friends at a lake nearby. He and I decided to stop off at a very well known grocery store chain to pick up some cold cuts for sandwiches. I grabbed the paper number at the ticket counter and immediately caught the vibe from the dangerous fool behind the deli counter. I said nothing but he confirmed my suspicions as he called every number but ours. Needless to say, I walked up to the counter, interrupting him as he so "politely" helped another customer in "line" and said " I refuse to even deal with someone as ignorant and useless as you and I want you to get your supervisor over there." The fact that he never even batted an eye and retrieved the supervisor without so much as a flinch told me he knew exactly why I was seething. Not sure what happened both my friend and I have kept an eye out for the moron and neither of us have seen him since.

      It is truly wonderful to know I share a world with individuals such as yourself. Your parents did a wonderful job and I commend them for the fine son they raised.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Thank you so much Dennis for sharing this story. When parents teach their children that we all are alike except our skin color may be darker or red, or yellow, whatever, then a child thinks nothing about any visual difference. I had a mother like that. I had a friend who was special when i was a child. She was black, her mother was my mother's friend. A person would think in this day and time racism would be a thing of the past--Not so... The hate toward President Obama is alive and well. Thank God that much of the younger people are color-blind.

    • profile image 5 years ago

      Dennis, we are of the same ilk. Your article is wonderful and thank you for it! Darlene Chimber Kane

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 5 years ago

      Denny - You, my friend - were born with a sense of justice that no upbringing, no scolding, my society values would EVER be able to change! You just KNEW - you're one of those rare breed who sees and seeks justice - as do I! Your aunt - on the other hand - just swallowed the bullshit whole - and no amount of 'changing' was gonna change her..

      Bravo to you, 'Denny'(lol) for doing the right thing (andrew) even though it put you at risk...

      up and sharing! (you really do need to learn to 'share' dear - didn't your good aunt teach you this?

      watch the increased traffic now...

      ps GREAT JOB on the video!!!