Septima Clark — The Mother of the Movement

septima clark birthplaceThis home at 105 Wentworth St. is the birthplace of Civil Rights pioneer Septima Clark. Martin Luther King Jr. called her “the mother of the movement.” One blog post can’t even come close to doing her justice, but you should know…⁠⠀
Clark’s life-long love of education and her advocacy for equal access to education was formed very early in her life, when she wasn’t able to have the same education as white children in heavily segregated Charleston.⁠⠀
Her position was galvanized when she returned to John’s Island to become a teacher (because she was forbidden from teaching in Charleston) and was faced with horrible inequality in education brought about by racist policies.⁠⠀
Clark helped establish the John’s Island Chapter of the NAACP in 1919, and then returned to Charleston to teach at the Avery Normal Institute, a private school for black children.⁠⠀
Clark would get married and spend time living in North Carolina and almost two decades in Columbia, SC. When she returned to Charleston in 1947, her growth in NAACP continued, and she was eventually named Vice President of the NAACP in Charleston. ⁠⠀
In 1956, South Carolina passed a law banning state or city employees from participating in Civil Rights organizations. Clark refused to leave the NAACP, giving up not only her teaching job, but also her pension after 40 years of service.⁠⠀
Clark also started “Citizenship Schools” all over the South that taught adults how to read, among other things. The schools would combat laws passed by many states to disenfranchise black people by requiring literacy to vote. Clark’s schools were a tremendous defense against these laws and brought education to many who never had access to it before.⁠⠀
Clark was given many awards in her lifetime, including an Honorary Doctorate by the College of Charleston, and her biography won the American Book Award.⁠⠀
For more about Septima Clark, her life, activism, and legacy, check out the articles about her in the Lowcountry Digital Libary.⁠⠀

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