Cleveland Sellers: Figure in Orangeburg Massacre, new leader of Voorhees

South Carolina-native Cleveland Sellers, Jr. was the only person jailed for the fatal events at the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre where three students were killed by police. But 40 years later, Sellers has become the president of Voorhees College in Denmark, S.C.

Sellers' story is one of those that I find surprising, having lived in South Carolina most of my life and worked at several newspapers in this state, I still have heard little of him (that I recall).

But The Post and Courier has done an excellent job (so far) of assembling his story in four parts, chronicling Sellers' influences, how he became involved in the Orangeburg Massacre, and how he made it to where he is today.

Here's an excerpt:
The next day, Wednesday, Sellers attended an S.C. State grievance meeting at which acting President M. Maceo Nance, angered by the previous day's police actions, suggested a boycott of the city's commercial district, in part to keep students on campus, according to the book. Then some whites arrived, including business leaders and the mayor, and soon the meeting degenerated into animosity when students thought they heard someone use the n-word. Though the officials said they would consider the students' grievances, tensions had not been defused. Sellers, leaning against the back wall, watched the proceedings, silently amused at the discomfort of the white officials.

He had hoped students would organize a march. A daytime march through the streets of Orangeburg would have helped to focus attention on prejudice and wrongdoing and given students explicit means to express their frustration. Risky though it might have been, it would have been better than allowing anger to fester.

It's a four-part series running each sunday, but only the first two have been published. Here's the links to those, and I'll update with links to the newer stories as they come.

1. A lifetime of change
2. Activist pays price for 1968 shootings

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