Monday, April 21, 2008

That Was the Year That Was

1968 just keeps getting more interesting, as in "the curse of interesting times." February 8th is the day I got out of the Navy.

Just to recap: Tet Offensive in Vietnam; Martin Luther King shot dead; riots like it was going out of style; Chicago convention riots; Robert Kennedy shot dead; Bob Kretschmann shot in the head . . . what am I forgetting?

Plus this one, which frankly escaped me:

"Orangeburg, S.C., three young African-American men were killed for protesting against that town’s segregated bowling alley.

It was Feb. 8, 1968, months before the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. It was more than two years before the massacre of students at Kent State University in Ohio. Students at South Carolina State University were protesting for access to the town’s only bowling alley. Cleveland Sellers, a student at the time at that historically black college, was also a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and an organizer of the protests. In a recent interview, he said about that night 40 years ago:

“It was a cold night ... this was the fourth day of activities around the effort to desegregate the bowling alley. ... The students had built a bonfire to keep themselves warm and build morale. They were trying to work out some strategy. What should they do next? Should they go back to the bowling alley, where they had been arrested on Tuesday night? Should they go to the City Hall? Should they go to the state Capitol? And they thought that they were in an area that was pretty safe and secure, and they never expected the police to open fire.”

Sellers is now director of the African-American studies program at the University of South Carolina. His memory is vivid: “The darkness turned to light as the police opened fire, nine highway patrolmen and one local police officer firing rifles and shotguns and pistols. It was a shock to many of the students that there was no bullhorns, no whistles, no anything that indicated that this kind of extremely lethal action would be taken on these students.”

Survivor Robert Lee Davis recalled the event in an oral history project conducted by Jack Bass, who was a reporter at the time and now is a professor at the College of Charleston: “It was a barrage of shots ... maybe six or seven seconds. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom! Students was hollering, yelling and running. ... I got up to run, and I took one step, and that’s all I could remember. I took that one step. I got hit in the back ... this was when I got paralyzed. Students was trampling over me, because they was afraid.” "

No shit. I was afraid, that there wasn't even anybody shooting at me. That was quite a year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hey fred