Cleveland Sellers and Steve Crump - Orangeburg Massacre

David Chadwick
Sunday, January 14th

The Orangeburg massacre refers to the shooting of protesters by South Carolina Highway Patrol officers in Orangeburg, South Carolina, on the South Carolina State University campus on the evening of February 8, 1968.           

00:38:03

Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Hi everyone I'm David Chadwick in this news 1110993. WBT welcome to the show now. Over seventeen years have been having done this with you folks thanks for listening on a weekly basis the purposes to intersect. Faith and values with different issues in our culture. Here we are Martin Luther King weekend and I wanted to do something very special today to celebrate this weekend. And remember a lot of what happened in the civil rights movement because it dramatically changed our nation I think for the better but with still a lot to go but also wanted to look back and remember a time that was. Really important in American history for us to become. A people that really are on divided and working together. In studio with me I have two really good friends one is Steve crop the award winning WB TV reporter. Also Cleveland sellers whose father interestingly was at the heart of one of the most significant civil rights moment that is oftentimes stealth. Overlooked and just not considered something that was essential during that time period but really. Why us. A Steve can I begin with you you you are doing a documentary right now. All the Orangeburg. Eight an event that we'll Harrisburg massacre okay the massacre and it happened in 1968. We would you describe a little bit of what happened what you discovered with more work on the document. You know football's version loser server role I guess time lines and tree lines that happened in support group or talk about Islam while ago Warren can talk about. Thing to happen Birmingham the great liberal lynch can't exactly but mind large in many respects what happened in Orange bird. South Carolina and February 1960s to be a nineties succeed. There's just comic book travesty of justice of miscarriage of justice in many regards. Man speaks to where I think especially some of the work you've gone in this community. As it relates to social justice so. You talk about Cleveland Sowers the third and spears studio we're mr. Wilson's artwork. Who was largely responsible for many of the changes and the Adam you know civil action which saw the worst. Carried out on the part of the students but at the end of the day. And at its worst there were three students that killed. To consult honestly one from one local high school and according to some public space it's upwards of forty students were shot and the only person to serve any jail time as a result of that considering you were nine South Carolina highway patrolman that were indicted. Wills we went towards Jim my son and the people who were shot from what I've read were mostly in the backcourt in the buttocks in. Ways that looks like they were shot from behind. Yeah exactly. You know on the fact there's been among the people we interviewed several students shot one person was shot in the foot. Another person in the back. And even minutes marches. We skirt out. In the south along Highway Patrol. Use. Anderson former weaponry and ammo called don't want auction witches. Pretty much what she used to go out on barriers and view on college students and. And Cleveland the EU are not born at this point in life or you know not not at that time. And my father's. Some time on a little less than a year. In the Columbia correctional institute in Columbia, South Carolina. During which he'd miss the birth of my older sister. So there is famous picture great picture of my brother and I emphasis to keep. Witnessed my mom bringing being able to bring in my mind. Older sister. To see my debt for the first time and she is. You know cradled in my mom's arm in my mine my dead is looking at the ground with his prison blues on. In my mom and staring at the camera. With with the child and what analysis and your dad at this point is and what position in now South Carolina State University but what would he do at this point. Assumes while he was in prison. No I'll sing before hand that sue sue at the time for questions still at the time my dad had to move back to Orange Park South Carolina. He's from Denmark South Carolina town that that would grow up been war in my way Tony miles away it's it's much my brother jokes all the time it's once. Does stop light three linking light. And now parties. Suk -- he was moving back closer to home. I'm Orangeburg South Carolina. The Orangeburg massacre. Happened on February 8. The protest. Started on February 6. Polling at a bowling so students had a built this protest. To really a protest what would Jack bass always calls the last vestige. Jim Crow. Instill. So he was living back in Orangeburg South Carolina right across street from campus. The sixth happened February 6 the night protests went smoothly. February 7 fifteen students were arrested. And that really sparked tensions so by February a tensions were high. And that's when and students decided to protests on the campus. And the map and the night of the mask and I understand there was a bonfire there was that the police came to put out to any kind of in protest that kind of sparked no pun intended and the whole riot and again. The police went way over the top and actually killed three of the students that Revere and I want to talk about when we come back about your dad's role in all of this and how he was the one. Above all who got arrested and sent to jail I'm David Chadwick this is news 1110993. WBT will be right back. Hi everyone I'm David Chadwick in this year's 1110993. WB team welcome back to show how happy Martin Luther King weekend to you all it's a joy to have you. With me this weekend's show because it's extraordinary. Talking about a bit an event that happened in 1968. That really was crucial in the civil rights movement but is. Unspoken about stealth and many different ways and we want unfolded today it's called the Orangeburg massacre happened in Orangeburg South Carolina with me in studio is Steve crop an award winning WB TV reporter who has done a documentary on this particular subject and Cleveland sellers the third. Whose dad was at the heart of this problem and indeed. With three African American young students shot and killed his dad amazingly was the only one who was arrested and serve jail time completely come back to use your talking before the break. About the bonfire that took place by students who were protesting. I'm a bowling Alley that was segregated and the first night it was peaceful the second night calls more protest fire. The police came to put out the fire that's when everything broke out the shots were fired three students were killed. About forty or so were wounded. And your dad ends up being the only one arrested unpack all of that for us especially what was your dad's position at this point in the hole Orangeburg community. Yes so my father was. A member of CNET. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was years before. A student at Howard university in DC a freshman. Stokely Carmichael was. Actually in this room. And Stokely decided to. Was graduating and starting snake and my father left school. Went to work. Was Stokley. Full with the student Norma according to the and so at the time he would he would move back closer home. I can to mark South Carolina being home for. My dead he moved to Orangeburg South Carolina. And was living across street from South Carolina State University. So although. He didn't. Coordinate the protest. He was very aware of what was going on. In and really talks about how it is it is the original intent which is to hope the students. Trade talk them through what they were doing. But he didn't heed and Courtney. The original protest he jokes and says he didn't likable. Here at a at a university and asking them what he knew that what they were asking for and fighting against. Was the right thing and your dad's a very educated man at this point in his life right well he he ended up. Going Harvard. God is doctor later from University of North Carolina Greensboro. And taught for years. And if you Ivy League schools then packet universe is South Carolina were spent many years. In the the department of African American studies and then ended his crew reader. Most recently forties college back home in Denmark South Carolina where he was the work he's president of the school and now. Cleveland I'm wondering this too. You know with with your dad's obvious intelligence was he devotee of Martin Luther king and A had a commitment to nonviolence at this point in his line yeah he did in and that was you know the boos. Snake Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was an organization. Really galvanized around how we fight. Social injustice. Again and nonviolent manner. Huddle we bring people together on many social issues. And and so he was a secretary with an organization. And and I think what what what we learned throughout the civil rights movement is that there were direct ties. Linkages with all the organizations within its rights to really help. And and and called last to build this. That you know this organization that would. That would help fight these injustices that we seals. Steve Pompeo let me just stood up in your calls he's being kind of modest W rather honest about the workers father Christmas time. What we've consoles you mcginnis a documentary the you have estimate -- WB TV you know social process of editing right down the hall of television that I will try to get twosome is really remarkable to appoint as the split some time with we've and so she. Man in his defenders rather. I guess poignant photo. It is. Mississippi freedom some. And probably notebook talking about it. And as Cleveland sellers new year with mark and junior in 1964. Slots at this thing you talk about what was happening. In Orangeburg 64 LBJ science to be a Civil Rights Act 1964. Bought. There were places like South Carolina that skirted world the local. Wall makers pretty much stands to there won't be. I guess one of the players in this whole situation as a businessman even a report in the bowl. Come upon it loosening grip the only problem mom and pop business calls you don't want black folks to come and your. Business to integrated despite what the federal government says you can get the might of the state have upwards of 1000 national guards. 200 South Carolina highway patrolman to keep people are now talk about the events Salton bonfire. The week of the Rory wasn't very tumultuous week that calls the actual protests started. At the bowling curse on February 6. And it was weird there woes. Protest kind of mob scene. When nose broken by across a people problem but the chorus of people. One of the folks that we interviews student government and the McCain. She tells on camera. How's she was told by two South Carolina police officers from now mourns for. And each and while another one bludgeoned her with you don't club that this girl's one part of it and sold that was on February 6. The seventh things were pretty quiet as a protest of the state capital Columbia. But on February 8 to 1030 at night was when all hope. Seen in this in 1968 let's remind listeners that that's when all of this two months report doctor fiscal. And so things are at heightened. Awareness in the nation but especially in this area of the world there's a great sensitivity to racial tensions. Okay and and east Cleveland how major dad. Step in that this was did you just go to the bonfire to try to help the students who'd gathered there to maintain control what happened yes it's a great question I. I think because of his background and the movement in the civil rights movement is his main goal was really to help the students. To make Shuler and and you know one of the I was talking to others about a week ago one of the things that that we my dad always saw. Was that you'd never protest. At. I needed if you really want something by your gas in the day again if people protest he really wants a million bad to happen and you protests when he gets dollar. Soup soup was something that that does nick movement really focused on in an educated others. And and I say that to say they're protesting night. And as Steve said over over files and close to a thousand. A state Highway Patrol balls a thousand board governor and Kashmir that's right yeah that's right sue so he was he was helping he was on the campus the bonfire was lit. A fire truck rolls up. What is national caller. All on the side of the fire truck date put out the bomb. And as a crackling. Begins in that this smoke raise. The the state patrol said the that he fell to fault that a student shot threw something at one album which was proved. Untrue. And they loaded. These double lot. Bottom law books yeah on the net and and in your father tells me and him. That he saw the schools right pulls it wasn't just that the Chicago and there's. Agree to photographer who's won my girls and Cecil Williams and Cecil done a couple of boxes. Purchased from it. But it was through Cecil Stew scuffle. Of the shotgun shells. Bet they basically winked at me weaponry to the south along Highway Patrol. You know typically wonders declines in somebody's some bad happens and as a work or have been enough places and yell Teepen worthy you know important. Mark who spent casings and shells on the ground. Bottom line here is the Highway Patrol ago I'm never gonna get shot they go home. That next morning you head. Members of the school's maintenance crew had this photographer Cecil Williams who's. Picture of the shotgun shells happens to go on the AP wire is picked up by time and Newsweek. And then there's a knock on the door is at a studio from the FBI saying we were like cynical shells and as the assault of that. That's counsel's time we're home. And I mean and so again how many were indicted altogether not and nine were and and they go to trial. But none of them spend any jail time whatsoever do things. No not at all and part of the reason for that the jury had to wrestle with the question. Missiles missiles the argument. You worry your lives in danger and that was pretty much the breeze so the case now one other thing this is not prosecuted as a state case the calls the FBI. Handled the investigation all along with the Department of Justice so the state of South Carolina to this date. Really does not address these concerns not even today no one's been to make that no one has been convicted. And even in his marches. There's been no formal report there have been some. People here and there governor Mark Sanford issued a statement. But we did sit down Jim Hodges who talked about Hughes was the only company to basically you know go to South Carolina State. NC if something happens wrong of that we're sorry. Now the other thing worry he talked about governors Carroll Campbell was studio the government was involved one. Cleveland television was pardoned sold this thing keeps going back and forth over the years a lot of ebb and flow year. In Cleveland on the we've got to take a break and another couple few seconds but died. These nine net police officers were never convicted at all three people were shot and killed. It did cause a simmering sense of injustice in the community they're absolutely. Absolutely that governor a McNair always actually stated that this was one of the fourth V worst. Incidents ever in the history of our status of Caroline but it took me years to admit that Jordan and so we're today experiencing. Owe a lot of feeling. Among many especially in the African American community about injustice. Not being served in other police shootings. And this may be one of the original cases where this happened and when you have. Justice denied you have the simmering sense of anger. Amidst a group of people and that's what we're dealing with today I'm David Chadwick. We'll continue this message in just a moment. There. Hi everyone I'm David Chadwick in this news 111099. WP team welcome back to show. And if you'd like to hear the hook showed in its entirety could have been beauty dot com scroll down that we can shows that David Chadwick shoot you can hear the show from the beginning to the end which. I think you may wanna do because we're talking about something that. Honestly so few people know about but. Was really a major event in the civil rights movement as weak. Are celebrating the Martin Luther King weekend this weekend and that's the Orangeburg massacre in studio with me to talk about it is Steve crop an award winning. WB TV reporter Cleveland sellers the third whose father in Cleveland sellers junior. Was the major focal point are the Orangeburg massacre. With three African American young men shot. Forty more wounded nine police officers highway patrolman. Weren't sent to trial. All were exonerated. The only person that was arrested was Cleveland sellers junior Cleveland your father and obvious question is. Why was he arrested. Yes suits who. You know we take a step back. Right after. The shooting him. And and in mind you. The police and Highway Patrol shock wore eight seconds. Eight seconds. Bullets flying. As you mentioned students hit the back in the box in the bottom of the foot and Lucic joining a shot with buckshot basically a dog walks yet they yanks lose four of hunting a bigger big great big game. Running up one of the one of the folk shot was my father. He was shot and in the shoulder. And as he recalls. He remembers. You know a force pushing into the ground. That spun him around. He got. Very quickly to continue to help track students. Up towards a building. So in the midst of the of the gunfire in the smoke. His first stop was really to help others. And to get them out of harm's way because he wasn't sure what was gonna come next. So as a student swerved. Or were. Ushered into a safe zone building. Those that were injured those that were shot were taken to the hospital. She knew debt because of his background as a civil rights activist. That. He possibly could be looked at four or arrested for something. Silk she went to the hospital to to get treatment. In the hospital was where he was identified as Cleveland sellers. A member of snack Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a civil rights activist. At that time immediately. He was handcuffed shackled. Thrown in the back of a police cruiser and ordered the end up. And he ended up the Columbia correctional institute on death row on death row Jeff wrote. And I put his dad. On death row that night they shut down. I 26. In their security and if you you know when you hear. Cleveland junior talk about along with the grid all protect bans who's written the definitive book called. The Orangeburg massacre. They shut down I 26. Man and a curator and and you and your father a locally basically says he made it a point six. I'm going with the police Rangel because because a lot of times if you were civil rights worker you know army. Eagle with the police you may not be seen again. Well and he and his his original ball was. He probably would not make it a lot he thought he'd be killed by the people ought to be killed by the police and silky he recalls. You know flying. With this caravan to Columbia correctional institute. Getting out being dragged out of police caller in the first base. Was awarded them the prison. Who's who's. Awoke and then and still barely dressed to receive them or that throw. He'd he wasn't sure where he was because of the commotion. And he said once he was put in his cell. He spoke to another inmate to condense. Any mast where am. In the inmates that year in Columbia correctional institute on death for what what's the charge. What he torture well. There were many charges that you and and and you talk about. What do you what he was charged with didn't even happened the night in which I mean that's what's what's what's Kris alternately the expert in it. But there were a whole lot of other things for its assault disorderly conduct and the arts. That they made stick from what happened at bowling in meters this. You know August all we'll walk comment that he supposedly east that you know Cleveland junior says you know house accused of looking a bit concerning burn baby burn. Which clique of what I know your dad has so unlike him he would never seen anything like and it it sounds like father pure and that would never happen what did it it is it is comical to it to yourself think that you know he woods knowing him that he would even. You know murmur those words but but they were looking for anything. To stay in and if we take a step back its its interest staying at I think you have to look at the political dynamics and governor McNair at the time. Had a not Fuller vice president yes you have it with humor how important that Torre in CEO he had Ron or he was touting south Carolina's being news. You know disquiet state that had dealt with race relations. And this event. Dissident literally crushed. That opportunity sows so there were political import implications it was a it was an interesting climate politically. You know that you want to the convention yesterday venture. Condo you know one once again when all hell breaks loose and he finds out that on television that he did not get them out for home. So what happened in Orangeburg even though it's as you were used were stealth it also has some other ramifications. From. So the political environment was theory AG at best and this was the spark that lit the fuse that caused everything to exploding in your dad was basically made the victim off the problem Cleveland's are correct absolutely yeah. And he spent how much time again in prison there are several months in prison yeah. Seven months. And got a good grief. Is it behavior the other sentence realtors has he been exonerated since then by any political official guess suits who he was pardoned in 199. The war. 94 which which is interest thing I was in high school we just moved to. From Greensboro, North Carolina back to Denmark South Carolina. And and I remember. My debt served on the on the state school board. In South Carolina and we got a call late after school I remember being home among moms saying. They've asked us to turn on the news. We'd not knowing exactly what was gonna happen. They walked into a school board meeting and says doctor Cleveland sellers. Based on the events of 1968 your arrest where's the state of south Carolina's sari and we'd like to offer you Parton. My goodness wouldn't that must've done to your emotions I can't even begin to imagine you know it. It was. I was I was more interested in in in his response. And you know light my father you know who is Monday's hero. There was none. You know after after years. Being charged with the with the federal crime. You know not able to to do certain things because of the the charge that impact it had on on our family and and meeting people. In the state of South Carolina and all around was. You know this is still at least an indelible mark Steve wolf when you look at our guests one. This man has gone through. It one of the things. In Berea fast book in essence what was the bureau chief electoral observer and he was a definitive book that you and in Colombia and eighties and a champion in many regards horse. Giving us for now but the reality is the FBI hand this man's. Problems fall. But he's not only that as as as as used as you solve this you know shall force obviously the South Carolina. There was an army tank parked in front of the house and army tank yes. They brought tanks if I'm not mistaken wasn't there barrel pointed at home there's an that there is a picture. Of a real army to misses this is real rate pointed. Directly at his house so that's part of the reason he was only campus because he he often jokes and says accidents do happen. Cleveland what your dad also suffered afterwards. As well with with teaching responsibilities. That were taken away from him something like that I remember correctly when you've not talked previously about this well I I think I. I think the arrest in the federal charge. Inciting a wry yet. You know we sustaining. And it whether it's teaching other opportunities that were missed. You know it it it definitely played Pollard and what he was able to do. You know career why it's he worked for the greens for housing authority when we went in Greensboro for years. You know going back to South Carolina he knew immediately he wanted to get into education. In the University of South Carolina welcomed them with open arms. But but it was you know growing up was. You know listen I wouldn't trade my childhood. For anything in the world. But it but it was some trying times. Well when we come back for our last segment I wanna talk to you both about what this means in United States history but even more particularly Cleveland on talking about your dad's. Life that he's been able to live and be gracious and forgiving. When something horrible. Has happened to him I'm David Chad of this is news 1110993 WBT will be. Right back. Welcome back everyone I'm David Chadwick and this is news 1110993. WB team. If you haven't been a part of the show well on this Martin Luther King we can you need to be talking about an event that happened in American history here in the south called the Orangeburg massacre in 1968 Orange Park South Carolina. Where nine police officers were charged with the shooting of forty African Americans three killed and the only person really charged has been in jail time was Cleveland. Sellers junior very. Nonviolent African American leader in that community just trying to help advance civil rights his son Cleveland sellers the third is in studio with me right now talking about this amazing event Steve crop. WB TV award winning reporters also Whitney who has done a documentary on this story ending Anderson I think coming coming. How soon and I guess image and in any moan assault promotion we're going to be screening and on February 1 Harvey B can't senator. Time has not been set yet but we're gonna have some folks are hope Cleveland isn't around them can be. Panel the great photographer Cecil Williams will be there road who's done books and Orangeburg. Signing an autograph and books in the light consult. That's going to be happening on February 1 in the actual broadcast. 78 on WB TV on February's which commemorates the fifteenth and it. It's amazing story again fiftieth anniversary coming up in here here's my question for you both in Cleveland become do you first is. We we hear about the Greensboro launch count or situation obviously Selma immediately important event in civil rights movement. The Orangeburg massacre hideous lead was. Maybe more. I believe and any of these other events in some ways and yet it almost flies under the radar of the civil rights movement in American history DD having explanation for that Cleveland. Yeah I. I don't know why. And it's gone and talked about. But I do know that you know all of us have stories to share we should always share. Those stories my father's is constantly beating the drum and telling this story 74. Now or so is that right yes yes and sue sue. He's constantly beating the drum and talking about this experience and what happened and in South Carolina I would even go a step further to say. That if we would have taken lessons from South Carolina State Orangeburg massacre we probably would not have lost a lot we did it hit. And and that's the whole scenario because there is a clear double standard here Kent State happens two years after born tipper. The reality as you can go online you can fund the FB IA's Kent State report but you can not do the or it's over and play and why is that the case I just don't understand why it's been hidden. For all of these years Steve you have any and signs well you know I think meant. There's a sense of justice there's a partner of the polls that show that story. And Wear them the flag comes down. At the state house and call on October flight since the justice. Don't root getting the death. Persons justice Michael Slater who was sentenced to twenty years for the death of follow gotten in North Charleston there's a sense of justice. With Orangeburg they're deceived to leave this defiant. Heels dug in. Not no but hell no we're not gonna deal with this and you were romp Cleveland's brother Karim that many fuel Mano from CNN most former seat once. And when the car he was so what the south and on legislature. There was an effort to put together study group. A blue ribbon panel. It never made it out of committee. Mary. While and so is the ugly wounded. And never heal old and so it continues to fester in a way as people reflect upon this ugly part of our American history one of the. Poll that sit down with the Washington last week in Washington DC scars and implied. Van Cliburn who was still a lot of will commit street who isn't great supporter of south Carolina's a sales are for homecoming doses fish Raj there every year for homecoming every year and the thing climber and says. Is that. But keeping it in denial about run remaining in the state of denial that people of South Carolina hoping that folks will forget about it. And that's the desire but of course you if you forget about it. You don't remember what you need to remember in order to move forward in the healing of people. Coming together as one and we're doomed to repeat history and we and that's a challenge the healing has really never happened. Progression moving forward can't happen. Because it's never that Cleveland let me ask you this question your dad must be a saint. Obviously your hero and like you alluded to earlier yeah. How has he handled this has he forgiven practice the whole idea of giving it to god and letting the war handled this. What's he done it it's a good question. A joke and always says I think month my brother sister and I are are. More mad didn't and he has. You know somewhere. And his walking in his life he's. Yeah he's reconciled. And and I think he's been able to. You know move forward with this. I remember being young and middle school. For the here first time being able to out of school would drive with a in the South Carolina to the anniversary. Every year in February at South Carolina State University to have a memorial service. And my Father's Day and every year. Mean and I was able to go down with them for the my first time. Did he share with you everything that's happened did you go into detail with all that occur he talked about it over time little little pieces overtime I gained a lot of my insight from. From different stories but also from talk in the conference like Jack bass and Cecil Williams and Reggie Robinson and others. But but but seeing him in that moment. During the ceremony memorial ceremony and middle school among middle school years. And actually seeing them break down and start crying and then you have seen that emotion you in the middle of the speech. Just overcome what is with emotion and grief. An and I think the sense that. There's still no closer. There their students that were at South Carolina State that that can never come back to Orangeburg. Because of the emotion and they talk about how the field in fifty years later we feel. It's went when they see. Contemporary. Situations like we've witnessed over the last several years our police officers shooting an African American Indian justice not. Happening again does that reopen the wounds Cleveland. You know like again I I think my father has been able to. To somehow move forward. Although he still remembers. You know that that 9 February 19 68. You my personal opinion is that it definitely opens those loans I see history repeat itself how it could all over again tonight. When you see officers. There are correlated sometimes it brings that emotion of what we're we're back again and we were but you get the deal with what level of commitment to these students hand. At least we out there to try to do the right thing even for them simple. As. Advancing civil rights got one final question Cleveland got about thirty seconds and I'm sorry but. If your dad could speak to our listeners today. Police say to them. You know his his favorite word is always been hope. It's always been whole L had to keep hope. It'll always habit because it is a driving motivating force. In our lives he often kept the picture of him steal this from pocket. Just to remind them when he was fighting for every day. But hole. Would be that the furries he would he would trot Steve's crop by Cleveland sellers the third thank you an answer everyone remembered that. A nation. Divided. Is a nation that will fall love god love your neighbor folks if you do those two things you have a lifetime's worth of work to do. Thank you for listening I'm David Chadwick this is news 1110993. WB TL fall on the Puerto talking with you all next week.
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