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“V” is for Vesta Mills of Charleston

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  “V” is for Vesta Mills of Charleston. In 1899 Spartanburg textile manufacturer John Montgomery and New York merchant Seth Milliken purchased the Charleston Cotton Mills and renamed it Vesta Mills. The new owners intended to operate the mill with African American labor. This was a controversial decision and was made partly in response to the efforts of union organizers in the state's textile industry. In the press, the closure of the mill in 1901 was attributed to the failure of its black work force. One stockholder faulted Milliken, accusing him of taking “every means to show the colored labor unprofitable. Those negro women could tie a knot at a spindle as well as white women could.” The closing of Vesta Mills ended the employment of black labor in the state's textile industry, which remained segregated until the 1960s.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar receivedhisA.B.degreefromDavidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.