Orangeburg Masscure Comic Book

PDF Proposal: Orangeburg Massacre Proposal

Cover Letter

To Whom It May Concern:

1968, in the Civil Rights movement in the United States, represented a tragic and momentous year with both the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and the passage of Federal Fair Housing Act shortly after Dr. King’s assassination. However, there were some significant events from that year, in South Carolina, which have not perhaps been remembered as much as they should. One of those events transpired on Feb. 8, 1968 in Orangeburg, SC that has come to be known as the Orangeburg Massacre. Such events deserve greater attention and discussion and one way to do so is to use visuals narratives to engage audiences with fresh and new ways of seeing the events through both words and sequential images via comic books.

Modern students and younger audiences need to have a greater awareness of crucial events of the past.These larger audiences can be reached by taking upon a newer form: sequential art or comic books. Will Eisner and Scott McCloud both note that such approaches have potential to activate audiences and potential responses. In particular, and this one of the fundamental reasons why the representation via comic and visual form would serve of great potential to modern audiences and students, Eisner points out that “Comprehension of an image requires a commonality of experience…an understanding of the reader’s life experience if his message is to be understood” (7). In other words, presenting young African-American students and others today with depictions of past events that mirror or connect to their own experiences in life today are paramount. Taking into consideration that events of the Orangeburg Massacre involved students seeking what today would be easily recognized as social justice via peaceful protest that was met with violence from law enforcement remains an issue recognizable to young people today.

In their work The Power of Comics, Randy Duncan and Matthew Smith, when noting reasons for studying comics and defining their potential, point out the important growth of visual literacy in the 21stcentury. They define this as “the ability to understand pictorial information [that has become] one of the basic skills required for communication” (14). Comic books have the potential to reach and engage students and younger audiences who are often steeped in a culture of visual literacy. Audiences today rely on memes and other mixed modes of communication that utilize both words and images working in conjunction to communicate.

McCloud specifically highlights that words and images function in separate cognitive modes and that comics have a way, like memes one could argue, of bringing those modes together. McCloud, in Understanding Comics, “illustrates” that “Pictures are received information [and therefore] We need no formal education to” understand what they are trying to tell us while “Writing is perceived information [and] takes time and [sometimes] specialized knowledge to decode” (49). What McCloud points to here is that language in written form can sometimes hold an audience at a distance, but when combined with images, such issues can more easily be overcome. All of this ideally points out that construction of a comic book adaptation of works, like Jack Bass and Jack Nelson’s book The Orangeburg Massacre, can provide a pathway for critical information to reach newer, younger, and more visually literate audiences that would otherwise perhaps fail to encounter this historical information.


This comic book will aim to portray the events surrounding the Orangeburg Massacre, relying on the book of the same name written by Jack Bass and Jack Nelson. The story will follow the events as they occurred over February 6, 7, and 8 of 1968 involving student protests of the Floyd’s Bowling Alley/All-Star Bowling Lanes. These events will be explored in visual form along with information surrounding the build-up and aftermath of the tragic events that resulted in the deaths of three South Carolina State College students. Focus and attention will specifically center on the movement and desire of young students seeking equality and on remembering the lives of the three students who died: Samuel Hammond Jr., Delano Middleton, and Henry Smith.

Script Work Up for Sample Art Below

Cover Page – Images/Pics of locations key to events.

*picture of historical marker will be only image on Page 1. Have it mirror its position from cover.

Page 1:

*Picture of the historical marker

“Walking south down Magnolia Street, near downtown Orangeburg, South Carolina, one will pass beneath the shadow of history. That shadow passes over the two nearby universities that buttress each other, pressed to one another like in an embrace of friendship. That “embrace of friendship” provides comfort, protection, solidarity, and defiance. Claflin University and South Carolina State University, both Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), are not only institutions and repositories of higher learning, but also of civic memory of the tragedy that befell their students on the 8th of February 1968.”

“Walking down Magnolia, past the brick and mortar edifices that are these institutions of higher learning with their green and peaceful grounds, one will find themselves beneath the shade of trees there is a printed, painted, and stamped memory of a tragedy.”

“Near the entrances of Claflin and South Carolina State University there is a side road designated State Road S-38-226 but also known as Watson Street that passes in front of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. There, under the shaded trees is positioned South Carolina Historical Marker 38-27 that commemorates the tragedy that history has come to know as ‘The Orangeburg Massacre.’”

Page 2

Panel 1:

*Image of the front of Claflin University, moving left to right

“This sleepy southern town found itself at the heart of a tragedy that was largely overlooked when it happened in 1968.”

“The marker that now highlights what occurred was dedicated on 8 February 2000, the 32ndanniversary of the tragic events. It was then that the marker was placed where it now rests beneath the shaded trees near the entrance to S. C. State University.”

Panel 2:

*Image of the street of Main Street

“Some 30 or so male and female students were protesting the segregation policy of the All-Star Bowling Lanes. While returning to their campuses, they were fired upon by South Carolina Patrolmen near the Geathers Street entrance of South Carolina State University and only feet from the main entrance to Claflin University as well.”

“As the chaos spilled over in to a violent response to a nonviolent protest of unjust restrictions, students fled in panic back to the safety of their brick and mortar institutions.”

Panel 3:

*Image of the Church on Magnolia Street near the marker

“Of the 30 or so male and female students who were fired upon, roughly 27 were wounded and 3 were dead.”

“Left behind, lying on the grass and concrete as senseless reminders of this tragic and violent act were the bodies of three young men from South Carolina State University:”

Panel 4:

*3 images of three slain men in foreground

18-year-old Samuel Hammond Jr.

17-year-old Delano Middleton

18-year-old Henry Smith

*Background empty bullet casings, blood, concrete

Quote: “without warning of any kind, the armed officers began to fire shotguns at the students…most of the injured received their wounds from the back, apparently as they were fleeing” – Justice Dept. Report (149).

Bass, Jack and Jack Nelson. The Orangeburg Massacre. Mercer, 2002.


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