Full Name: Septima Poinsette Clark
Born: May 3, 1898
Died: December 15, 1987
Notable: Educator & Activist
Septima Poinsette Clark was born the second of eight children to a formerly enslaved man (Peter Poinsette) and laundress (Victoria Warren Anderson) in Charleston, South Carolina. Peter had grown up on a plantation where he walked the slave master’s children to and from school and was made to wait outside while they received an education. Victoria was born free in Charleston but was raised in Haiti where she developed a very proud manner and strived to make her daughters into ladies. Her parents highly valued education but were poor and racial inequality made it a struggle to provide their children with the caliber of education that they desired.
At the age of six, Clark began attending school but her parents pulled her out of class when they realized that she was receiving a subpar education. Instead, they placed her with a local woman who taught children in her home. Clark was a good student but was unable to afford college after high school graduation and instead became a school teacher on John’s Island after passing a state exam to teach in rural areas.
When Clark first began teaching, Black people were barred from teaching in the Charleston Public School System. Due to segregation, Black students attended schools with high student to teacher ratios, less state spending per student, and underpaid teachers. Seeing and experiencing these gross inequalities sparked something in Clark and she began her career as an activist.
Clark eventually obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees and continued her teaching career. Over the next 50 years she participated in a variety of racial and social equality initiatives. In no particular order: holding literacy classes for adults, petitioning for Black teachers to work in the Charleston Public School System, participating in an NAACP class action suit for equal pay for teachers, collaborating within the SCLC on the first citizenship school, and organizing for the SCLC.
- Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Septima Poinsette Clark.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 11 Dec. 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Septima-Poinsette-Clark.
- “Clark, Septima Poinsette.” Clark, Septima Poinsette | The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, 3 May 1898, kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/clark-septima-poinsette.
- “Queen Ana De Sousa Nzinga Mbande of Ndongo (Angola).” Black History Heroes, www.blackhistoryheroes.com/2011/03/queen-ana-de-sousa-njinga-mbande-of.html. Reese, Linda W.
- “Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987) BlackPast.” BlackPast, 1 Feb. 2019, www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/clark-septima-poinsette-1898-1987/.
- “Septima Clark.” SNCC Digital Gateway, snccdigital.org/people/septima-clark/.
- “Septima Poinsette Clark.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Mar. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septima_Poinsette_Clark.
- “Septima Poinsette Clark (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, www.nps.gov/people/septimapoinsetteclark.htm. Snethen, Jessica.
Image Source: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute
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