Black voters are the linchpin of Hillary Clinton’s strategy for winning Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, and as a result, her campaign has put racial justice issues at the forefront

of her agenda.

But at an event on Wednesday night, Clinton was vocally confronted by an activist questioning her past support for policies that had a disproportionately

negative effect on African Americans.

Ashley Williams, a 23-year-old “black lives matter” activist from Charlotte, interrupted Clinton during a private fundraiser in Charleston on Wednesday night. Williams stood and demanded an apology from Clinton for the high incarceration rate for black Americans, and confronted her with the words of a speech Clinton delivered 20 years ago voicing support for the now-debunked theory of “super-predators”.

“They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators,’ ” Clinton said in 1996, at the height of anxiety during her husband’s administration about high rates of crime and violence. “No conscience, no empathy, we can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

The last part of the quote was written on a large, hand-lettered sign that Williams held up as Clinton spoke to her donors and supporters.

Clinton took note of the sign and read it aloud, squinting to read it and apparently unaware that is was her own quote.

Williams addressed Clinton, asking whether Clinton would “apologise to black people for mass incarceration.”

Williams added: “I’m not a super-predator, Hillary Clinton.”

Clinton first told Williams, “we’ll talk about it,” but grew irritated as Williams continued to speak.

“Do you want to hear the facts, or do you just want to talk?” Clinton asked sharply.

Off camera, guests at the fundraiser, apparently held in a private home, can be heard saying “shhhhh”, which then turns to such comments as “this is inappropriate,” and “you’re being rude.”

Williams asked again about Clinton’s words from 1996, as a man approached Williams to escort her out.

“You know what? Nobody’s every asked me before. You’re the first person to do that, and I’m happy to address it,” Clinton said, but did not elaborate.

In a written response to The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart on the issue Thursday, Clinton said: “Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today.”

“I thought that quote was important not only because it was her own words, but because that was her pathologising black youth as these criminal, animal people,” Williams said in an interview. “And we know that’s not right and we know that’s really racist.”

“I wanted her to be confronted with that very racist thing she said,” Williams said.

Yet, the idea wasn’t Clinton’s, but rather it had been invented by researchers studying crime in the 1990s. And it was used to explain the rise in violence perpetrated by youths - particularly in predominantly minority inner cities. The concept has since been largely abandoned and decried for its racial undertones.

Browse photography at Denver.Gallery.