Recalling the ‘Orangeburg Massacre’


Kenneth Jeffers

Trinidad-born Kenneth Anthony Jeffers, a former manager of Access and Diversity in the City of Toronto, is a longtime advocate for civil and community rights.

And he is well known for his work as an activist in the Black community in Canada’s largest city.

But what is not so well known was his involvement in the civil rights movement in the United States.

In a recent interview, Jeffers who is getting ready to publish his biography, talked about his “scholarship days” in South Carolina and what came to be known as the “Orangeburg Massacre.”

In 1968 Jeffers left Trinidad for the United States on a track scholarship at the State University of South Carolina.

Orangeburg protesters

He told The Caribbean Camera that on his arrival in South Carolina, he saw a sign in a gas station that said “no niggers allowed” and realized that he had to be very careful.

He said he was also warned “that the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was active in the area and that he should not go out alone at night.

“But I got involved with the civil rights movement when Blacks were not allowed in a bowling alley.

“And I joined in protesting the action of the bowling alley in keeping us out.”

Jeffers said the protest escalated and three of his fellow students were killed by police and more than 20 injured in what was called the “Orangeburg Massacre.”

“We, the protesters, ran 40 miles to the state capital,” he noted.

“It was one of the proudest moments in my Black life running at 3:00 a.m,” said Jeffers.

He said the Trinidad and Tobago Embassy had warned him not to get involved in the protest and he was threatened by one of his coaches that his scholarship would be revoked.

Jeffers returned to Trinidad soon after the “Orangeburg Massacre” and came to Canada the following year to study at the University of Toronto.