Aiken, South Carolina: High Tension In A Company Town

Black workers at a nuke plant say they're fed up with being kept down

Willar and Josephine Hightower had always been good company people in a sturdy and steady company town--until about 10 years ago. Willar had worked his way up to the position of engineer, proudly receiving excellent evaluations. Josephine, a senior computer programmer, relished her white-collar job. Their employer was the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., a sprawling nuclear-processing plant where the Federal Government stores some 35 million gal. of radioactive waste. It was the largest employer in South Carolina, and the jobs paid well. The Hightowers saw themselves as team players, partakers in the co-prosperity of a racially segregated but placid...

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