Not widely known outside of South Carolina, Charleston labor leader Mary Moultrie passed on April 27. Mrs. Moultrie made significant contributions to the workers struggle in Charleston starting with her leadership of the 1969 strike of hospital workers. Her work reveals both the connection of the civil rights movement to the labor movement and the too often hidden role of women’s leadership. Oral historian and Labor activist Kieran Taylor provides a brief look at this Black working class hero and shares resources about the strike and the life of this remarkable women.
“At the conclusion of the 1969 Charleston hospital strike, Mary Moultrie reflected upon her leadership of the movement in which 450 African American workers protested for more than three months for union recognition, better wages, and an end to racist harassment. “It has injected in me the desire of wanting to make right that which is wrong,” she wrote. “Whenever or where ever people are struggling to be treated with dignity and respect and the right to be free is where I want to be.”
Until her death on April 27, Moultrie stayed true to her word. After leaving the Medical University of South Carolina in 1975, Moultrie worked as a recreation center manager for the City of Charleston for 28 years, providing guidance and supervision to scores of young people on Charleston’s East Side. She returned to the labor movement in 2006 and has since been central to efforts to organize local healthcare and municipal workers. Despite her limited mobility in recent months, Moultrie kept up on the state of the local movement and provided these words of encouragement to the young fast food workers who have joined the national Fight for 15 and a Union! “When one worker is treated unfairly, we all feel the pain. That’s why I support the fast food workers as they try to give this town a raise.”
Her passing was mourned and her life was celebrated during a lively May 2 service at the Evening of Prayer Church of God in Christ in North Charleston followed by her burial on Wadmalaw Island.”
For more on the 1969 strike, see
For oral histories with Mary Moultrie