Posted By Bill Payer on Aug 4, 2022 | 0 comments

You’ve almost certainly driven on the Septima Clark Parkway in Charleston….but how much do you know about the woman the road is named after?

Who was Septima Poinsette Clark?

“A pioneer in grassroots citizenship education, Septima Clark was called the “Mother of the Movement” and the epitome of a “community teacher, intuitive fighter for human rights and leader of her unlettered and disillusioned people. 

The daughter of a laundrywoman and a former slave, Clark was born 3 May 1898 in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1916 she graduated from secondary school and, after passing her teacher’s exam, taught at a black school on Johns Island, just outside of Charleston. For more than 30 years, she taught throughout South Carolina, including 18 years in Columbia and 9 in Charleston.”   To see more from The King Institute at Stanford University CLICK HERE

Septima Clark ca. 1960. Avery Photo Collection, 10-9, Courtesy of the Avery Research Center

Clark’s efforts over her extraordinary 99-year life led to her recognition by the National Park Service.

“Clark was particularly upset by the voting system in the South. Black men and women had the right to vote, but were often kept from the voting polls by literacy tests. Many adult African Americans could not read because their parents and grandparents were formerly enslaved. Slavery was legal in the United States until 1865, and it was illegal to teach an enslaved person to read and write. As a result, literacy tests prevented many black citizens from voting, even in the 1950s and 1960s.

 Clark designed educational programs to teach African American community members how to read and write. She thought this was important in order to vote and gain other rights. Her idea for “citizen education” became the cornerstone of the Civil Right Movement. She worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to win rights for African Americans.

Septima Clark continued to serve as an advocate and a leader until her death in 1987.”  To learn more CLICK HERE

Clark’s birthplace is 104 Wentworth St.  CLICK HERE FOR DIRECTIONS

In 2020, the U.S. Mint announced that Septima Poinsette Clark would be the face of South Carolina’s $1 American Innovation Coin.

For more on the American Innovation Coin program, CLICK HERE

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