Truth and Reconciliation in a Southern Town
University of South Carolina Press, 2012
“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
“paint[s] a vivid picture of the racially charged, tinderbox atmosphere in 1960s S.C.”
- Publishers Weekly
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.
You can order the book from The Univerisity of South Carolina Press or your local bookseller.
A portion of the proceeds from this book will help young people who would like to play sports with the Orangeburg Parks and Recreation Department but can’t afford to do so. As a kid growing up in Orangeburg, running track, playing football and soccer (and one season of basketball) introduced me to people young and old, black and white, I might not have met otherwise.