J. Michael Graves (1915-1996), a native of Charleston, graduated from the Avery Normal Institute in 1932. In this interview conducted by Edmund L. Drago, Graves discusses in detail his family history and genealogy. He recounts his upbringing in Charleston, his father’s position as a Pullman porter, and his parents’ focus on family pride, self-worth, and appreciation of culture. This uplift philosophy was evident in Graves’ academic as well as musical pursuits. The interview focuses on Graves attending Avery Normal Institute from 1926 to 1932, talking in detail about various Averyites, teachers, classes, and rhetorical and musical programs. Graves also refers to issues of exclusivity and skin color within Avery. The second part of the interview elaborates on Graves attending Fisk University, where he graduated in 1939 with a degree in Physics. Graves was a lifelong educator; after serving as a substitute teacher at various schools in the Lowcountry area, Graves then taught at Laing High School from 1939-1945, ultimately becoming Laing’s principal. The interview also covers Graves’ time in the military at the end of World War II. Further, Graves mentions inter- and intra-race relations in Charleston. He also recalls activities of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the formation of a Junior NAACP at Avery, as well as involvement in sit-ins, equalizing teacher salaries, and the Hospital Workers’ Strike of 1969. The last part of the interview focuses on Graves returning to Avery as a teacher, particularly recounting the transition of Avery’s student body to Burke High School in 1954.
In this interview, Dr. Joseph Irvin Hoffman discusses his life in Charleston, South Carolina: first as a boy educated at various Charleston schools, then as a professional doctor on Johns Island. He recalls his fathers career as a butcher, his family origins, and details the trade by including his own experiences. Hoffman describes other trades held by prominent blacks of Charleston, as well as the prevalence of white and black doctors. He discusses his education at great length, first at a private school run by Miss Winslow, then St. Peters Catholic School, including his experiences with the nuns and religious influences, and then with his attendance at Burke school, where he mentions the activities of several teachers including Miss Grimke of the infamous Grimke family. Hoffman also details his school days at Avery Institute, including his social and academic experiences and the various black and white teachers he encountered. Of note are several recollections of various speakers, including Thomas E. Miller, a Republican congressman during Reconstruction. Dr. Cox, principal of Avery at the time, is also mentioned with fondness; Hoffman gives descriptions of the programs Cox initiated that caused Avery to become more like a college than a high school. Also of note are the numerous political activities that Hoffman witnessed, noting that blacks were often discouraged from voting. He mentions his presence at Dr. Kings speech in 1963, the hospital strike in Charleston in 1969, and his participation in several sit-ins." Throughout the interview, Hoffman shares his general feelings regarding his awareness of segregation and prejudices from the white community, as well as the effects of having light skin vs. darker skin. NOTE: The sound recording is hard to understand due to extremely low volume.
In this interview, Mary Moultrie (born 1943) talks about her involvement in the 113-day Charleston Hospital Strike at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in March 1969. After graduating from Burke High School in 1960, Moultrie went to Goldwater Memorial Hospital, New York to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). In 1967, she returned to Charleston and was hired at MUSC only as a nurses assistant since her LPN was not accepted. She speaks in detail about the working conditions and employee relationships at MUSC prior to and after the strike. Ms. Moultrie explains the various types of nursing titles and the unequal pay between black and white nurses. She retells in detail how the racial tensions that led up to the strike at MUSC increased due to the harassing treatment toward black nurses. In the interview, Moultrie details the first informal meetings and get-togethers that were held, until the black nurses joined forces with the 1199 union and Bill Saunders. Moultrie elaborates, in particular, on the lack of support from the white community under the Gaillard administration, as well as the hesitation of the black community to join them in their efforts for equal pay and treatment. She then refers to support from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Septima Poinsette Clark, and various leaders such as Andrew Young and Ralph Abernathy. Moultrie mentions the difficult and hostile negotiation process with MUSCs president Dr. William McCord and the memorandum of agreement that was ultimately reached. The interview closes by the interviewer inquiring about the current work force diversity at MUSC and Moultries feelings regarding the strikes accomplishments.