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South Carolina - Charleston: Naomi M. White Interviewee [Part 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews Naomi M. White in Charleston, South Carolina. She was an employee at University Hospital and talks about the discrimination that existed leading up to the Hospital Workers' Strike. She worked as an assistant in OB-GYN. She trained as a LPN at Lincoln Hospital in New York, but South Carolina required her to retake her exam in order to be qualified as a LPN. She refused, and instead worked as a Practical Nurse for the same salary. There were not many white assistants at the time, but they did participate. Some of the RNs and white doctors participated, but were told not to jeopardize their careers. The LPNs, nursing assistants, and employees of dietary and housekeeping went on strike. She talks about being approached to participate in the strike. She says she surprised a lot of people with her participation. She went to jail. They picketed from 3:00-4:00 p.m. to catch the shift change. People pulled their loved ones from the hospital after the strike began. One scab hired a private detective to get her past the picket line, but White would not let them pass. She was arrested following the altercation, along with a few others. She was in jail for four to five hours. Lawyer George Payton was assassinated in 1975. She talks about the case he was working on at the time, which involved land ownership issues on the islands. A detective told her that they knew who did it, but they were instructed not to make an arrest. White went to jail several other times during demonstrations. Ralph Abernathy and Mary Moultrie also went to jail. White says that the local people had a nonchalant attitude to demonstration, but when someone like Jesse Jackson or Andrew Young came to town, people participated. The participation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference helped their cause, drawing crowds and offering experience. Local 1199 was a help to them, but they also raised the prominence of the group. White was told that if they waited another week to settle, they probably would have gotten everything they had asked for. She thinks the terms of the negotiation should have been put forth to all of them before an agreement was made. They heard nothing about it until after an agreement had already been made. She says that conditions at the hospital got better for a while after the settlement, although workers were not put back into their original departments. There is still no union at the hospital. Conditions are back to what it they were before the strike. Younger workers are intimidated, and the grievance procedures that were put in place are not effective. George Marion, who works in public relations, is not on the side of the workers. White talks about an incident when she was suspended and her supervisor threatened not to pay her. She only knows of one black supervisor. She continues to talk about incidents she dealt with at the hospital. She talks about why she did not call an attorney.
Civil rights demonstrations
Dent, Thomas C.
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 149, Item 6, Side 1, Tom Dent collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Physical rights are retained by the Amistad Research Center. Copyright is retained in accordance with U.S. copyright laws.