ON THIS DATE in 1968, three teenagers lost their lives when state troopers fired on a crowd protesting the “whites-only” policy at a bowling alley in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Samuel Hammond, eighteen, Delano Middleton, seventeen, and Henry Smith, eighteen, were killed and 27 others were wounded in what became known as the “Orangeburg Massacre.”
Two days earlier, protesters had clashed with the police, resulting in several bloodied students — most of the demonstrators attended South Carolina State College. On February 8 students set a bonfire on the campus in protest of the “whites-only” bowling alley and the attacks by the police on February 6. The fire department and 66 state troopers arrived, with numerous shots fired into the crowd. Five bullets struck Henry Smith. Many students were shot in the back as they fled the gunfire.
One newspaper reported that the officers began shooting after students had fired on them, but an investigation uncovered no evidence of armed protestors. None of the officers who fired on the students was convicted of any wrongdoing.