Charleston Hospital Workers Strike, 1969

In March of 1969, African-American hospital workers at the South Carolina Medical College Hospital in Charleston (now MUSC) went on strike when twelve of their co-workers were fired after protesting their treatment and working conditions. The strikers hoped to win back the positions for the twelve who lost their jobs, as well as earn recognition for the Retail and Drug Hospital Employees union, Local 1199B. Employees from the Charleston County Hospital joined the protests shortly after the strike began. The strike was a major event for the Civil Rights movement in South Carolina, and Coretta Scott King and members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, including President Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young, came to Charleston to aid the cause.

Abernathy

Ralph Abernathy

This ten-minute clip of local WIS-tv news outtakes illustrates many of the activities and demonstrations related to the protests. Probably filmed between April 25 and April 30, 1969, the footage shows Abernathy marching with a woman, most likely Mary Moultrie. Moultrie, a leader of the strike, recently passed away on April 27, at age 73. The outtakes also show a speech given by Coretta Scott King, as well as the arrival of National Guard troops with tanks, gas masks, and rifles with bayonets fixed. An officer explains to press that the Guard presence was to provide “sufficient” manpower to control potential trouble. When a reporter asks if he thinks the troops would increase tension, the officer simply replies, “no, sir.”

Andrew Young

Andrew Young

In these outtakes filmed on April 28, SCLC member Andrew Young speaks about the strike, the need for young black people in South Carolina to make a living wage, and the willingness of protesters, including SCLC president Ralph Abernathy, to face jail time.

The strike lasted over 100 days, finally ending with a settlement in June. In a 2008 interview on The Colbert Report, Andrew Young explains how he worked to settle the conflict with Stephen Colbert’s father, James William Colbert, Jr., the university’s first Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Learn more about the Charleston Hospital Workers Strike here.

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