Woman Making History #3: Septima Clark


Septima ClarkCivil Rights leader Septima Clark's is the first name on the poster that I don't already know a lot about. I knew Clark was a Civil Rights leader, and had admired the awesome photograph of her shown her, which is also the cover photo of Brian Lanker's book, I Dream a World (which you should check out, if you've never seen it, it's pretty amazing), but that was about it. So I'm happy with this project already for providing me with an opportunity to research fantastic women I don't know enough about.

Septima Clark was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1898. A public school teacher and advocate for adult education, Clark began her Civil Rights work well before the movement took hold in a broad way in the 1950s. She began organizing in the 1920s and was a member of the NAACP from 1919, very soon after the organization's inception. Her early organizing work focused on the fight to allow African Americans to teach in public schools. Later, she branched out into community building, vote registration, and anti-segregation activities. In 1956, she was fired from her job as a public school teacher for being involved with the NAACP. She then became a full-time Civil Rights activist.

In 1961, Clark became the director of education for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Through this work, she became an early proponent of and teacher Citizenship Schools, which taught Black Americans to read, write, understand the basic government structure in order to be informed voters. She worked with SCLC until her retirement in 1970, after which she served two terms on the Charleston County School Board.

Septima Clark died in 1987. Her lifelong commitment to civil rights has earned her the title "grandmother of the civil rights movement."

South Carolina African-American History Online
Septima Clark: Teacher to a Movement (unpublished article)
Wikipedia: Septima Poinsette Clark

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