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Associated Press
Two black demonstrators killed in the Orangeburg Massacre lie on the ground at the edge
of South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, S.C.

Lawmakers Say Review of Orangeburg Massacre Is Necessary

February 11, 2009 01:27 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
A South Carolina lawmaker wants to re-examine the Orangeburg Massacre, which has not been as thoroughly reviewed as some other civil rights-era cases.

Lawmakers Want In-Depth Review

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Rep. Bakari Sellers of South Carolina said he would bring forth a bill, which was already introduced last year, “calling for an official state investigation” into the Orangeburg Massacre. During the civil rights outcry, three protestors were shot and killed, and 27 were wounded. Sellers’ father was wounded during the Massacre, and was sent to prison for “inciting to riot,” according to The Post and Courier, a Charleston newspaper.

The Common Dreams Web site reports that nine state troopers “faced federal civil rights charges for the shootings but were acquitted.” And although the massacre was reviewed by the FBI and U.S. Justice Department last year, “the FBI declined to reopen an investigation into the shootings because of the issue of double jeopardy with the troopers.”

According to The State, “it is difficult for some to let go of what happened in 1968, especially with questions unanswered.” Because of the ambiguity surrounding the case, in May 2007, Rep. David Weeks, D-Sumter, and a group of legislators announced they wanted a more in-depth investigation into the Orangeburg Massacre. “We may not like what (an investigation) finds, but perhaps we can bring some closure to this,” Weeks told The State. 

Common Dreams reports that historian Dan T. Carter argued “that there has not been a ‘historical reckoning’ of the shootings like there has been with other civil rights-era incidents.” Furthermore, said Carter, people often have trouble contemplating tragic events, but “there was not a full kind of reckoning with what happened, particularly after the troopers, in effect, were given a pass on the whole thing and acquitted.”

Background: The Orangeburg Massacre

Because of the general turbulence surrounding the civil rights period, the Orangeburg Massacre was largely ignored by the news media. The Orangeburg Massacre 41st Commemoration Ceremony Web site fills in the blanks, providing background information on the event, the media response and a photo gallery from that day.

Related Topic: Other Civil Rights Cases Reopened

Reference: The Civil Rights Era

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