400 Black Women and a Union: The 1969 Charleston Hospital Strike

Presented by Claudia Smith Brinson.

In December 1967, five Black women left work at Medical College Hospital in Charleston when ordered to violate their LPN licensing limits. Despite the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the hospital segregated patients, restrooms, and cafeterias, and did not provide Black doctors or training programs for Black workers. With the help of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Local 1199, the favorite union of recently assassinated Martin Luther King Jr., 400 Black women went on strike for much of 1969. The governor sent tanks and armed soldiers.

Let’s talk about worker’s rights and the role of labor unions in a democracy. South Carolina has the nation’s lowest union rate.

With photos.

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