The struggle for black equality comes to Charleston : the hospital strike of 1969

O'Neill, Stephen, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Gaston, Paul, Department of History, University of Virginia

The modern Civil Rights Movement has generally been studied from a perspective that focuses on those events during the period 1954-65 that altered national policies--policies which offered blacks the chance for legal and political equality. The Brown decision, the Montgomery bus boycott, the Greensboro sit-ins, the freedom rides of 1961, the Birmingham protests of 1963, and the march on Washington form the core of highly publicized and studied events that characterize the history of the movement. These occurrences culminated in national legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which, respectively, outlawed discrimination in hotels, restaurants, and other public accommodations and ensured all Americans the right to vote. But our present knowledge beckons historians beyond these familiar contours. To fully understand twentieth-century America's most significant social revolution, the various local struggles for black equality which erupted across the South and the nation must be recounted. This is the study of one such local battle.

Despite the changes that had been mandated by federal law by 1966, the blacks in Charleston, S.C., had not capitalized on their newly gained rights. They remained second-class citizens politically, socially, and economically. This paper focuses on how a seemingly insular dispute sparked the transformation of Charleston's black community from cautious leadership and a complacent citizenry to activism. An examination of the dynamics of that dispute will provide insight into the changing nature of the larger black community. The story of this push for equality in Charleston is but one piece in the puzzle; however, by calling into question some of the accepted truths that have been engendered by a panoramic view of the Civil Rights Movement, this account will, I hope, add to our historical understanding.

MA (Master of Arts)
Strikes and lockouts -- Hospitals -- South Carolina, Discrimination in employment -- South Carolina, Employee rights -- South Carolina, Hospital Workers' Strike, Charleston, S.C., 1969

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

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