Clark, Thurgood Marshall, and others at the Highlander Folk School.


Part 1
Part 1


Tape 2 and original transcripts 1 and 2 are missing.

Image of Septima Clark is courtesy of the Highlander Research and Education Center.

Image of Septima Clark, Thurgood Marshall, and others at the Highlander Folk School is courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Audio courtesy of Yale University


Septima Poinsette Clark

Mar. 18 [1964]
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Septima Poinsette Clark
Septima Poinsette Clark Bio

Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987) was an educator and civil rights activist. The daughter of a former slave, Clark was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Clark attended Benedict College and received a master's degree from Hampton Institute. After beginning her teaching career in 1918 at an all-black school on John's Island, Clark later moved to Columbia. There, she continued her teaching career and also participated in a campaign to equalize teachers' salaries. In 1956 Clark was fired from a teaching job in Charleston pursuant to a South Carolina law that prohibited teachers from maintaining membership in the NAACP. In the late 1950s Clark began working at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee and developed Citizenship Schools throughout the South, where adult students learned to read and write so they could pass voter literacy exams. She later became a director of the school. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference took over Highlander's training program in 1961. Clark's autobiography, Echo in My Soul, was published in 1962. President Jimmy Carter bestowed a Living Legacy Award on Clark in 1979. In 1982 she received the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina's highest civilian award.

Image courtesy of the Highlander Research and Education Center.


Clark recounts several childhood experiences in Charleston, South Carolina, and she reports progress in Charleston in terms of race relations. Clark discusses her childhood education in Charleston and the first time that she was taught by an African American teacher. She also discusses her work at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. Asked by Warren about Gunnar Myrdal's perspective on Reconstruction, Clark opines that slaveowners should not have been paid for the loss of their slaves. Clark expresses agreement with James Baldwin that mobs in the South do not represent the majority of white southerners. Clark discusses her arrest and trial in Tennessee for her work at the Highlander Folk School. Clark discusses her opinions of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas Jefferson. Clark claims that there has been a great change in the racial climate in the country, and she provides several examples of this change. She also describes changes in African Americans' demands for rights.


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