TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION IN A SOUTHERN TOWN
Finalist, ForeWord Reviews 2012 Regional Book of the Year.
On the night of February 8, 1968, three young men were killed during an incident that has come to be known as the Orangeburg Massacre. Samuel Hammond, Delano Middleton, and Henry Smith were shot from behind by South Carolina state highway patrolmen as they fled the scene of a protest in front of South Carolina State College, a historically black institution, in downtown Orangeburg, South Carolina. The violence, the result of protests over continued segregation in the community, left more than twenty-eight others wounded in addition to the three deaths. The patrolmen involved were exonerated while victims and their families were left in limbo, ever-seeking justice. To this day, many in the community of Orangeburg seek resolution and reconciliation for this horrible tragedy.
This was the first violent incident on a college campus in the United States during those tumultuous years. Two years later, the shooting deaths of four white students at Kent State University in Ohio captured the nation’s attention, while the black men and women injured or killed in Orangeburg, have been little remembered. Ultimately, the Orangeburg Massacre can be read as a final conflict of Jim Crow, the first state-sanctioned shooting on a college campus, or a litmus test for the future of race relations in America.
Blood and Bone is an exploration of the Orangeburg Massacre focusing on why it took place and the changes that have and have not occurred in the community since 1968. This book examines Orangeburg’s own quest for truth and reconciliation through archival research and interviews. I privilege the lived experiences of Orangeburg’s “cast of characters”—indeed, their stories guide this book. Despite the contentious nature of the massacre, Orangeburg is a community of people living and working together. Blood and Bone tells their fascinating stories and pays close attention to the ways in which the community is shaping a new narrative on its own, despite the lack of any state or federal re-examination of the shootings.
“Masterful…. Readers can learn from this balanced account of the depth of denial that continues today in much of white Orangeburg, but also significant activity among both black and (especially a core group of young) white clergy and others pushing for truth and reconciliation…. Only Shuler could have written this important book. May it become a big best-seller.”—Jack Bass, Charleston (S.C.) Post & Courier
“Jack Shuler’s Blood and Bone is one of the best books ever written on a southern small town. The Orangeburg Massacre had a profound effect on me as it did for so many others living in South Carolina at the time and since. The massacre has blighted the image of Orangeburg like a blister that won’t heal. Shuler has written a nuanced story of Orangeburg since that bloody night. He tells all sides of the story with fairness and compassion. The people we meet in these pages are wonderful and the final chapter is spectacular. Shuler gives us a moving love song to his home town.”—Pat Conroy
“Shuler has a talent for appreciating and describing the characters of the people he interviews, and by the end of the book I felt I had met an interesting cross-section of the citizens, black and white, who lived in Orangeburg in 1968 and live there still…Shuler’s book is a local history, but then all history when examined deeply becomes local. The Orangeburg tragedy of 1968 was rooted in two centuries of American racial injustice, and its after-life in the psyches of Orangeburg residents tells us a good deal about where America stands on racial matters, even today.” – International Journal of Conflict and Resolution
“He deals masterfully with the complicated issues of memory and reconciliation…” – Journal of Southern History
“An impressive work of scholarship, written with a narrative flair and regard for historical accuracy, Blood and Bone: Truth and Reconciliation in a Southern Town is highly recommended reading and a core addition to the growing body of literature on 20th Century race relations in the American South.” Midwest Book Review
“Shuler’s book is, quite simply, a conversation with Orangeburg. This is the strength of his book, in which he listens to voices—past, present, and perhaps future—and allows them to tell their stories.”—Orangeburg (S.C.) Times & Democrat
“Shuler has truly risen to the challenge of making history real through the stories of those involved, and more importantly, has created a path whereby those seeking some measure of understanding of the role of race and violence in America can from this microcosm find comprehension, compassion and knowledge that is all too easily missed or delayed because of an unwillingness to truly communicate with our fellow humans.” Green Spot Blue
“Shuler makes clear that reconciliation is long and begins with listening and paying attention to each other’s stories…. Shuler’s report paints a dark picture with glimmers of light.”—Kirkus Reviews
“paint[s] a vivid picture of the racially charged, tinderbox atmosphere in 1960s S.C.” – Publishers Weekly
“Jack Shuler’s poetic account of the Orangeburg Massacre of 1968 achieves William Blake’s command to see a world in a grain of sand—in this case, the grand American agonies of race and violence in an intimate story of a small Southern place.”—Marcus Rediker, author of The Slave Ship: A Human History