The ugly racial violence that plagued so much of the country during the civil rights era rarely visited the cities of the Georgia and South Carolina coast. Whether due to the area’s laid-back ambience or the fact that African Americans were simply too numerous there to be denied, cities like Charleston  and Savannah  experienced little real unrest during that time.
Contrary to popular opinion, the civil rights era wasn’t just a blip in the 1960s. The gains of that decade were the fruits of efforts begun decades prior. Many of the efforts involved efforts to expand black suffrage. Though African Americans secured the nominal right to vote years before, primary contests were not under the jurisdiction of federal law. As a result, Democratic Party primary elections—the de facto general elections because of that party’s total dominance in the South at the time—were effectively closed to African American voters. Savannah  was at the forefront, and Ralph Mark Gilbert, pastor of the historic First African Baptist Church , launched one of the first black voter registration drives in the South.
In Charleston , the Democratic primary was opened to African Americans for the first time in 1947. In 1955, a successful black realtor, J. Arthur Brown, became head of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP and membership soared, bringing an increase in activism. In 1960, the Charleston Municipal Golf Course voluntarily integrated to avoid a court battle. Lunch counter sit-ins happened all over Charleston, successfully challenging the remaining segregation laws, all of which were eventually overturned.
Martin Luther King Jr. visited South Carolina in the late 1960s, speaking in Charleston in 1967 and helping reestablish the Penn Center on St. Helena Island as not only a cultural center, but a center of political activism as well. The hundred-day strike of hospital workers at the Medical University of South Carolina in 1969—right after King’s assassination—got national attention and was the culmination of Charleston’s struggle for civil rights.