Posted By Bill Payer on Feb 18, 2020 | 0 comments

It’s a rare privilege to learn about local history from the people who lived it, who helped shape it, and who live today both because of and in spite of the history they helped forge.

That’s what happened at Tuesday night’s DIHS program “The 1969 Charleston Hospital Workers Strike”

51 years ago Louise Brown was an nursing assistant at what was then Charleston Hospital. She shared the routine, daily putdowns and blatant discrimination that led her and her colleagues to take to the streets after being fired for daring to complain to the hospital administrator.
Tuesday night, Mrs. Brown had a message for the DIHS audience that was even more powerful than what she helped accomplish in 1969.
“We can love people for who they are. We can’t live 1969 anymore. Please! Please love people regardless of the color of their skin. LET’S LOVE ONE ANOTHER!”

Another panelist, Thaddeus Bell, is today a physician in North Charleston, but in 1969 he was teaching history at a high school near the hospital. He had been turned down twice by MUSC because at that time they didn’t admit Blacks. He was drawn to the streets by the plight of Louise Brown and the other striking hospital workers. He was later admitted to the medical school and eventually, while still maintaining an active practice, he was named the school’s first Diversity Officer. In that role, he helped bring about an apology from the school for its actions and the events that ensued 25 years before.

The other speakers helped put that personal history into perspective for us. The evening began with a viewing of WCBD-TV’s 2109 documentary on the strike, “Civil Rights-Civil Wrongs. Anchor Carolyn Murray produced and hosted that production. She called it a special moment to be able to help bring such a powerful story to an audience that didn’t know what a crucial moment the strike was in Charleston’s Civil Rights struggle. Both Mrs. Johnson and Dr. Bell were part of that documentary.

The fourth panelist, Citadel History Professor Kerry Taylor, also contributed to the documentary. Taylor has written extensively about the intersection of the labor movement and the civil rights movement. Tuesday night he added valuable insight and context to how the strike improved conditions not only in the Black community but for all public employees in South Carolina.

There was so much more, it’s difficult to recount all the information that was shared Tuesday.

For those of you who couldn’t make it, take the time to watch “Civil Rights-Civil Wrongs at…/civil-rights-civil-wrongs-the-1…/

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