This chapter discusses the struggle for racial equality in Charleston. It describes the origins of a local civil rights movement which would culminate in a 1969 hospital workers' strike, one of the last major direct action campaigns of the civil rights era. The Charleston movement and the hospital strike is contextualized in the larger conflict against paternalistic racism. The idea of paternalism goes back to the Roman era, when the pater familias was the head of the household and estate owner. Though the term has come to mean a domineering father figure, it was once applied simply to upstanding Roman citizens who owned property. The Roman pater familias had a responsibility to protect his dependents—wife, children, and slaves—but he also had the power of life and death over them. In the antebellum South, southern planters cultivated a paternalistic relationship with their slaves based on this Roman model.
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