Septima Poinsett Clark | History of SC Slide Collection

Septima Poinsett Clark

Septima Poinsett Clark (1898-1987) was a pioneering African-American teacher in the Lowcountry. A graduate of Avery Institute (see The Avery Institute In Charleston), Mrs. Clark taught at a two-teacher school on John's Island from 1916, beginning her life-long commitment to African-American education. She first began her life of activism in 1919, leading the petition drive of Avery Institute teachers who successfully fought to allow African-Americans to teach in the African-American school system in Charleston. After her marriage took her out of the state from 1920 until the death of her husband in 1929, she settled in Columbia where she received degrees from Benedict College and Hampton Institute. She worked in Columbia for the equalization of teacher salaries, and continued the fight when she moved to Charleston in 1947 to teach in the public school system there. Active in the NAACP and the YWCA, she attended the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, and worked toward civil rights for her people. She was fired from her job in 1956 for refusing to give up her civil rights organization membership. She subsequently taught at the first Citizenship School at Highlander, where she worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and became the first woman member of the Executive Board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

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