Norma Hoffman-Davis (1940) was born and lived in Charleston until she left for college in 1957. Hoffman's parents were Ellen Wiley, a school teacher, and Joseph Irvin Hoffman a prominent African American physician who practiced in Charleston until he was in his eighties. In this interview, Hoffman-Davis reflects about growing up in Charleston peninsula, in a time when black and whites lived in the same neighborhoods but all institutions were segregated. She attended a catholic school for blacks, Immaculate Conception, and her family worshiped at St Peter's Catholic Church. Hoffman- Davis remembers the stories of her father, a black doctor, practicing in downtown Charleston and rural Johns Island. She tells about the health care institutions available for black people when she was a child, Cannon Street Hospital and the black section of Roper Hospital and also remembers her father's colleagues. Hoffman-Davis reflects about the mixed results that desegregation brought to the black community in terms of the access to healthcare services, as well as how changes in the healthcare industry have negatively impacted the doctor- patient relationship. Hofmann and her husband Mr. Leonard Davis lived in Detroit Michigan for thirty-eight years. After retirement they move back to the Lowcountry and reside in the house in which her parents used to live.
Michael Veeck was born in Tucson, Arizona in 1951 and is co-owner of the Charleston Riverdogs baseball team. He is the son of Bill Veeck (1914-1986), the colorful if not always successful owner of the St. Louis Browns, the Chicago White Sox, and the World Series champion Cleveland Indians (1948). Michael Veeck inherited his family’s love of baseball, but may be best known as the originator of one of baseball’s most infamous promotions—“Disco Demolition.” What began as a light-hearted gag to blow up disco records symbolizing the death of the 1970s dance craze, ended in a riot at Chicago’s Comiskey Park and considerable damage to the stadium and playing field. In this interview excerpt, Veeck details the planning of “Disco Demolition,” and boasts of his role in hastening disco’s demise. The interview took place during a “US Since 1945” course at The Citadel.
Carol Tempel was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1941 to first generation Polish and German- Czechoslovakian parents. Her father was a Roman Catholic Democrat and her mother a Missouri Synod Lutheran Republican. She credits her parents' experiences as the foundation for her understanding of civil rights; " I think those experiences are really the thing that helped me understand what the civil-rights movement was all about, what discrimination was all about, what prejudice was all about, because it was founded on knowing people as people." Her father encouraged her to attend college and pursue a career in science even when in 1963 it was an uncommon career choice for a woman. She graduated from Augustana College, majoring in Biology and Secondary Education. Later she pursued a master's degree in Biology and completed her PhD in Educational Leadership. In the interview, Tempel tells about the times when she was denied employment despite her qualifications because of her gender. In 1978, Tempel moved with her husband, George Tempel, and children from Kansas to Charleston. Tempel remembers feeling she was "an anomaly" among the other women. She joined the League of Women Voters and soon was deeply involved in the Equal Rights Movement. She tells about the efforts to reform the legislation in South Carolina, the criticism she received in her own community because of her activism, and finally the frustration when despite all the hard work in 1982 the legislation did not pass. Tempel never stopped working in the community; from ‘82 to ‘88 she served as a chair of the James Island Constituent School Board and was the owner of a small business. In '88, she was hired by Charleston County Schools as curriculum specialist and she worked with the school district in many different capacities until her retirement. She is the president of the American Association of University Women of South Carolina. In the interview, Tempel reflects about the motivations behind her activism, her biggest accomplishments, and what means for her to be a feminist and a southern woman.
Elmire Raven was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1952 and moved to South Carolina in 1989. Since 1991 she has served as the Executive Director of My Sister's House, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides services to domestic violence victims in the Lowcountry area. In this interview, Raven recounts her upbringing, her early awareness of discrimination and her work with the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. She also reflects about motherhood, social justice, and what it means for her to be a feminist and a southern woman.
Father Leonard Cunningham (1923-2010) was born in Charleston, SC to Harley and Marion Cunningham. In this interview, conducted several months before his death, Cunningham discusses his rich family history. His ancestors included a former Confederate officer and federal judge, a midwife, a Baptist minister, a supporter of Marcus Garvey, and many skilled craftsmen. His father was a skilled plasterer and ornamental worker who worked on the Francis Marion Hotel, as well as many historic Charleston homes. He also built the family home at 15 Larnes St. and sent his children to the Immaculate Conception School. In 1950, Cunningham was ordained a Catholic priest, joining the Holy Ghost Fathers. That year he became the first African American priest to celebrate mass at the Cathedral of St. Johns in Charleston. In 1960, he joined the community at Mepkin Abbey, but was given leave a few years later to work in North Charleston during the civil rights movement. This interview was conducted in conjunction with College of Charleston graduate student Joi Mayo’s 2011 thesis, “A Beacon Light: Immaculate Conception School's Encouragement of Charleston's Black Middle and Upper Classes.”
For over three months in 1969, four hundred African-American hospital workers from the Medical College of South Carolina and Charleston County Hospital walked off their jobs in protest over discrimination and the right to form a union. The state government and hospital boards argued that workers receiving pay from public funds could not engage in collective bargaining. The hospital strikers were mostly women, some of whom earned below the federal minimum wage; white hospital workers performing the same jobs were paid higher. This interview details the experiences of two women involved in the strike, Mary Moultrie and Rosetta Simmons, and a local civil rights activist who helped organize the strike, William Saunders. Moultrie and Simmons describe the working conditions before the strike and their demand for “respect as human beings.” Saunders remembers the racial tension in the city during the strike, detailing threats made by local officials and the false arrests of activists. All three interviewees report that African Americans at the hospital today are “afraid” to push for better pay and working conditions. Saunders also comments on the fact that “nothing is illegal in South Carolina,” referring to the fact that the state continues to deny public sector workers the right to collectively bargain. The session, which took place at the office of the union representing City workers (Local 1199-Charleston), was part of a Citadel graduate course on local history. Citadel history professor Kerry Taylor guided the initial portion of the conversation and various students followed with their own questions. For additional interviews related to the hospital workers strike, visit the Southern Oral History Program collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston.
Rev. Joseph A. Darby was born in Columbia, South Carolina. He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and a product of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. Darby has long been involved in numerous racial, cultural and faith based programs to improve South Carolina race relations and education, most notably as former President of both the Greater Columbia Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and the Greater Columbia Interfaith Clergy Association. He also served on the Charleston County School District’s Superintendent Search Committee, which led to the hiring of the School District’s first African-American Superintendent. Reverend Darby is also a former First Vice-President of the South Carolina Conference of the NAACP. In this interview with Kerry Taylor, Rev. Darby discusses the Democratic Party’s strategies within the state of South Carolina leading up to the 2008 Presidential Election. He comments on the differences between Hilary Clinton’s versus Barack Obama’s campaigns, of which he found Obama’s more successful by focusing on making personal connections within the Democratic voter base. In addition, he also discusses the role of the ministerial clergy in relation to the Democratic presidential campaigns, how those contacts were made, and the impact they had on the eventual outcome. A fourth generation minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church he has over thirty years experience and currently serves as Pastor of the Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Willa Mae Freeman was born and lived most of her life on Johns Island. In this interview Freeman recalls growing up in a rural environment and learning to work on farming since early age. She also remembers her days at Promise Land School, a segregated school for black children. She describes the precarious school structure and the students' responsibilities and routines. When she was in fourth grade, Promise Land building was closed and all the students were transferred to Mt. Zion Elementary. Then, for the first time, they rode the school bus and had access to the bookmobile. Freeman reflects about the importance of education and expresses her concerns for the problems that happen at school nowadays.
Lu Edna Capers (1915) was born and raised in Johns Island, S.C. Capers, like her mother and her siblings, attended Promise Land School, a segregated school for black children on the island. In this interview, Capers recalls her experiences at Promise Land describing the school building and its inadequate equipment. She explains how the classes were organized, what were the students' routines and responsibilities, and the games they played. She also recalls some of her teachers, among them civil right leader Septima Clark.
Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley was born in the city on June 9, 1943. After graduating from The Citadel (1964), he attended the University of South Carolina’s School of Law (1967). He served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1968 to 1974 before being elected Mayor of Charleston in December 1975. He has served 10 terms. Inthe following interview with Citadel Cadet Steven Foster, Riley reflects on the City’s disaster preparations for Hurricane Hugo in September 1989. The Mayor recalls that his main concerns were to encourage citizens to evacuate and to provide for those who needed shelter after the storm. Hunkered down in City Hall with other City employees, they listened anxiously as the metal roof was torn from the building and flung across the street. After the storm, which was among the most destructive to hit the United States, Riley worked closely with political, business, and civic leaders to revive the region’s economy and repair its badly damaged infrastructure.