In March 1969, a group of twelve African American employees were fired from what was then known as the Medical College Hospital for the State of South Carolina. Within days, hundreds of mostly female African American hospital workers went on strike to demand the reinstatement of their coworkers and official recognition of their union.
The strike gained the attention of national labor and civil rights activists who brought their organizations in to assist. The strike went on for more than 100 days, lasting well into the summer of 1969, and after mass demonstrations and arrests, then Governor Robert McNair called in hundreds of state troopers and national guardsmen and declared a state of emergency in the city.
While the workers ultimately failed to win union recognition, they did win reinstatement of their fired coworkers and other important concessions. The Charleston Hospital Workers Strike marked a significant political and social moment for the broader labor and civil rights movements.