Cleveland Sellers, a survivor of the deadly 1968 protest known as the Orangeburg Massacre, was named president of Voorhees College on Tuesday by the school’s board of trustees.
Sellers said he accepted the job at Voorhees to make the historically Black college more competitive and draw Black students who may otherwise be shut out of higher education because of rising costs and admissions requirements.
“We want to lift the college to its lofty heights that it’s had in the past,” Sellers told The Associated Press on Tuesday, adding that he’ll also work to make the curriculum at the college more rigorous.
One of his first steps when he becomes president will be to start an aggressive fundraising campaign, using his high profile as a civil rights activist, Sellers said.
Sellers was a civil rights demonstrator at the former South Carolina State College in Orangeburg in February 1968 when three students were gunned down and 27 others wounded by state troopers. He was the only person convicted from the incident but was pardoned decades later.
Historically Black colleges still have a role today, especially with funding from the federal government drying up and states cutting money for higher education, said Sellers, who is retiring from his job as director of the University of South Carolina’s African American Studies Program.
He said he will begin his new job at Voorhees next school year, but an exact date for him to start has not been decided. He also will continue his role as research professor and senior scholar-in-residence at USC.
Sellers was chosen from more than 50 applicants through a nationwide search, Voorhees Board of Trustees Chairman Marshall Bass said in a statement.
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