Orangeburg Massacre | FBI accused of cover-up

Saturday, December 01, 2007



Activist shot in 1968 Orangeburg Massacre says investigation needed

A civil rights activist who was shot in the Orangeburg Massacre said Friday the FBI continues to cover up what happened at the 1968 S.C. State shooting.

“There’s been a cover-up since the beginning, and the FBI was part of that cover-up,” said Cleveland Sellers, now director of the African-American studies department at the University of South Carolina. “And the FBI is continuing to cover it up.”

The FBI, which recently announced it wouldn’t reopen the Orangeburg investigation, said it would not comment on Sellers’ remarks.

In February 1968, three unarmed students were killed and 27 wounded by state troopers firing into a crowd of students massed on the grounds of S.C. State in Orangeburg.

Sellers, 63, was wounded in that incident and later indicted for his alleged part in a raucous civil rights protest in downtown Orangeburg two nights earlier. He served seven months in prison but was later pardoned.

Sellers said the Legislature needs to set up an independent fact-finding group to set forth the truth of what happened, express contrition, and see what, if anything, should be done to help those wounded in the shootings.

A resolution filed in the General Assembly earlier this year to open a review of the Orangeburg Massacre remains in the House Judiciary Committee.

Sellers said that although books like “The Orangeburg Massacre” by journalists Jack Bass and Jack Nelson have long established the facts of that night, it would be particularly meaningful if the state were to establish its own commission and issue the statements.

The state’s silence has allowed misperceptions of that night to persist, such as that the students were off-campus when they were shot and that there was an exchange of gunfire, Sellers said.

After the 1968 shootings, an FBI investigation resulted in charges against nine state troopers in the student shootings. All were acquitted after a jury trial.

Sellers was the only person convicted of anything related to the incident.

By Jon Monk <jmonk@thestate.com> Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344. Reprinted from The State newspaper