This Massacre Raised The Stakes Of Student Resistance

orangeburg floyd hall
Zain Murdock
May 30, 2024

By the beginning of 1968, Black students from South Carolina State and Claflin College had their sights set on desegregating Orangeburg, South Carolina. Three hundred protesters returned to a bowling alley that had denied entry to Black visitors. Cops beat some of the women. Their classmates responded by smashing windows of white-owned businesses as they fled back to campus.

On February 8, hundreds gathered at South Carolina State. They demanded an end to police violence, an inclusive human relations committee, fair employment, and no discrimination in public services. They lit a bonfire. The fire department and police arrived. Then, without warning, nine cops opened fire. Three students were killed, 28 wounded. But another form of violence is also a critical part of this story.

White media disseminated copagandist narratives claiming that armed students had attacked first. They also blamed “outside agitators” for inciting the violence.

These narratives surrounding the first fatal confrontation between law enforcement and university students in the country had tangible consequences. The cops were exonerated, but SNCC’s program director and friend of Kwame Ture, 23-year-old Cleveland Sellers, was incarcerated for seven months despite having been minimally involved.

Copaganda is still weaponized against young organizers today. But the more we see history repeat itself, the more skilled we’ll get at recognizing these narratives for what they are: attempts to sabotage organized solidarity and resistance.