Charleston activist and Muslim leader Otis J. Robinson popularized using the phrase, “I am somebody!” as a rallying cry for striking workers during the 1969 hospital protests. Robinson and local activist William Saunders also formed an organization dedicated to deterring violence against the black community through armed self-defense. They sought to safeguard strikers and their families by monitoring white supremacist groups.
Robinson was later active in South Carolina’s Republican Party politics. He ran for the State House of Representatives in 1974, and accused federal anti-poverty programs of being corrupt. He collaborated with Saunders on plans to establish an independent black supermarket, and worked as a tax preparer.
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Bill Saunders reflects on Otis Robinson's leadership and the orgins of the slogan, “I am somebody!”