​November 16, 1972: The Southern University Massacre Occurs

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In Baton Rouge, LA, Denver Smith and Leonard Brown, two Southern University students involved with Students United, a student protest group on the campus, were shot and killed outside the Old Auditorium (now the Southern University Museum of Art).

Denver Smith and Leonard Brown were taking part in a peaceful, unarmed protest by African American students who gathered at the university’s administration building to protest against the administration officials and their policies. Protests were ongoing as students fought for a greater voice in school affairs and the resignation of certain administrators.

Several student protesters had been arrested the previous night, and the students who entered the administration building on November 16 sought their release. State police and sheriff’s deputies entered the administration building with firearms and tear gas.

Smith and Brown were shot to death by buckshots from sheriff’s deputies during a mass demonstration.

Louisiana’s governor, Edwin Edwards, ordered the campus closed and declared a state of emergency for Baton Rouge, claiming that these “militant” students posed a threat. National Guard troops and police wearing riot gear patrolled Southern University.

Sheriffs denied shooting the young men; Governor Edwards said the fatal shots might have accidentally come from the deputies’ guns, or might have come from any of several other sources: “It is obvious there are discrepancies and questions. . . . In the heat of that kind of situation even if someone accidentally took a buckshot shell out of his pocket and loaded it and shot it, he would not be able to tell himself afterwards whether he had done it.”

Read more about their legacy at: Daily Black History Facts

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