A restored 30-minute documentary about the 1969 Charleston hospital workers strike called “I Am Somebody” will be made widely available on home video, DVD and Amazon Video on Feb. 20.
The documentary, originally released in 1970, was made by Madeline Anderson, who participated in the strike. New York Times movie critics recently named it one of 28 must-see films directed by African Americans.
Anderson had made two other films, including “Integration Report 1” from 1960, which examines the struggle for equality in Montgomery, Ala., Brooklyn and Washington, D.C., and “A Tribute to Malcolm X” from 1967, which includes archival footage and an interview with Malcolm X’s widow Betty Shabazz.
The documentary about Charleston’s hospital strike reveals the scope of the effort, the resistance among hospital officials, the confrontations between strikers and law enforcement and the speeches of Coretta Scott King, Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young, all affiliated with Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Council.
The three SCLC leaders came to Charleston to support the strikers. Abernathy was jailed twice. Young called for an economic boycott of Charleston businesses. Coretta Scott King invoked her late husband, who had been assassinated a year earlier, praising the efforts of the mostly black female strikers who were paid much less than their white counterparts.
The documentary shows the significant support strikers received from the local black community, and from students in particular. Signs were made that read "I Am Somebody." Ultimately, negotiations led to a settlement and violence was largely avoided.
Anderson’s film is a fascinating record of a major event of the civil rights period, rich in visual and factual detail.