Press Release on Orangeburg Massacre by W.E.B. DuBois Club and interview with Philip G. Grose, 1968 and 1979
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South Carolina continued to publicly struggle with race issues well into the 1960s. The Orangeburg Massacre at South Carolina State University occurred on February 8, 1968, when three black students were killed and twenty-seven wounded by highway patrolmen. Violence had broken out at a protest over the arrest of fifteen of South Carolina State University and Claflin College students, who had protested the segregation of a local bowling alley the night before. The nine patrolman charged in the shootings were acquitted and the violence, part of the larger struggle for equal rights in South Carolina, became known as the Orangeburg Massacre.
The following two accounts illustrate two different views of the riots. The first item is a press release from the W.E.B. Dubois Club of America, a 1960s communist youth group based in New York. The document is a part of former University of South Carolina English professor Raymond K. O’Cain’s papers at the South Caroliniana Library. The press release outlines the events of the day, highlighting the innocence of the African-American students and the heavy-handed techniques of the state government. The second item transcribes a portion of an oral history interview given ten years later by Philip G. Grose, former speechwriter and press secretary for Governor Robert McNair, who was in office during the incident. The conversation outlines Grose’s impression of McNair’s feelings about the event. This portion of the interview comes directly after a discussion about the student reaction at the University of South Carolina following the Kent State riots, and talks about how handling of the protest was influenced by the events of the Orangeburg Massacre. Grose recalls that McNair saw the episode as unfortunate, but did not feel personal guilt concerning the outcome. These two documents illustrate the information available through different types of records, such as press releases and interviews, and how one event can have many interpretations and lasting effects.
W.E.B. Dubois Club of America. “The Orangeburg Massacre.” Press Release. 14 February 1968. Raymond K. O’Cain Papers. Manuscripts Division, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
Grose, Philip G., interview by C. Blease Graham, transcript. Columbia, SC, 27 October 1979. Interview 1/13/1 in Governor Robert McNair Oral History Project. P 900176. South Carolina Department Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.
Standard 3-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the major developments in South Carolina in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century.
Indicator 3-5.6 Summarize the key events and effects of the civil rights movement in South Carolina, including the desegregation of schools (Briggs v. Elliott) and other public facilities and the acceptance of African Americans’ right to vote.Standard 5-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the social, economic, and political events that influenced the United States during the Cold War era.
Indicator 5-5.3 Explain the advancement of the civil rights movement in the United States, including key events and people: desegregation of the armed forces, Brown v. Board of Education, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X.
Standard 8-7: The student will demonstrate an understanding of South Carolina’s economic revitalization during World War II and the latter twentieth century.
Indicator 8-7.4 Explain the factors that influenced the economic opportunities of African American South Carolinians during the latter twentieth century, including racial discrimination, the Briggs v. Elliott case, the integration of public facilities and the civil rights movement, agricultural decline, and statewide educational improvement.
Standard USHC-9: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the social, economic, and political events that impacted the United States during the Cold War era.
Indicator USHC-9.5 Explain the movements for racial and gender equity and civil liberties, including their initial strategies, landmark court cases and legislation, the roles of key civil rights advocates, and the influence of the civil rights movement on other groups seeking ethnic and gender equity.