Click on an image below to listen to the voices of Movement Veterans:

Gene Young

Cleveland Sellers

Johnnie Carr

Hollis Watkins

Documenting the Orangeburg Massacre

Campus killings of black students received little news coverage in 1968, but a book about them keeps their memory alive.

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The Voices of Movement Veterans

“I made a choice at age 18 to leave Howard University and work for change. I had to become more serious when I took on the responsibility of tampering with people’s lives…Every time I took someone down to the court house to register to vote, I risked their lives and their jobs. After you see so much death and violence and hatred, you can get knocked out, never to recover.   Like other students in the sit-ins, etc., I took big risks. We made a whole other level of commitment, which is why things changed. The struggles for us was about building humanity and building families and building community. Not about destruction. Today we need to go back to the basics. We need to go back to learning our history.”

Cleveland Sellers to Project HIP – HOP, July 10, 1997

Cleveland Sellers was a high school student in South Carolina at the time of the first sit-ins and organized his first sit- in when he was 15 years old. He soon got involved with SNCC and became its program secretary in 1965.  In February 1968 he was accused "inciting" the Orangeburg Massacre.  It occurred when students who were trying to integrate a segregated bowling alley in Orangeburg, South Carolina retreated to the campus of South Carolina State University which was soon surrounded by police.  The police fired on the crowd killing Samuel Hammond, Delano Middleton and Henry Smith and wounding Sellers and 27 others. Sellers was arrested and spent time in prison before the charges were dropped.  He was pardoned n 1993.  In 2006 Robert E. McNair, who was governor at the time of the massacre, took responsibility for it in a book about his life. Cleveland Sellers now teaches at the University of South Carolina.


“The vast majority of people involved in the Civil Rights Movement were young people. The environment now is not much different than in the 60s. But the major difference is that then there was an organization young people could get into and be in charge of to some degree.” Hear Cleveland Sellers' story.

Hollis Watkins to Project HIP-HOP, July 18, 1997

Hollis Watkins was the 12th child born to Mississippi sharecroppers.  He was 19 years old when be became the first Mississippi student to join SNCC as a voting rights organizer.  He was a member of the Freedom Singers and has played a leading role in keeping the music of the Movement alive.  He is the co-founder and president of a leadership development organization in Jackson, Mississippi called Southern Echo, Inc.

Hear his story about how young people overcame their fear when doing the dangerous work of the Movement.

Read and listen to more of his words:

“Today we need to deal with issues at local levels, and at a historical juncture the right issue will hit and we can rally to it. We cannot create a wave, but we must equip ourselves mentally and physically to ride the wave when the wave comes. No one knew when the sit-ins started that a wave was coming. National movements come at a key points in history – we must be prepared.”

Rev. Harold Middlebrook to Project HIP-HOP, July 24, 1997.

Harold Middlebrook was an aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and was present at the Lorraine Motel when he was assassinated in 1968.  Today he is the minister of the Canaan Missionary Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

Copyright 2006, ACLU of Massachusetts