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Septima Clark

March 16, 2017 - Posted in SC Hall of Fame by Jackie Johnson

Septima Poinsette Clark was known as the “Queen Mother” or “Grandmother” of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Martin Luther King, Jr., commonly referred to Ms. Clark, as “The Mother of the Movement”.

Born in Charleston, SC, in 1898, Septima’s life was greatly influenced by “reconstruction”.  Charleston was strictly segregated and divided by class.

Hungry to learn, Septima Clark learned to read and write, from an elderly woman who taught Black girls.    Later, she went to Avery High School, a school founded by Blacks, by missionaries from Massachusetts. 

Financially strapped, unable to attend college, she took a test, and began working as a teacher on John’s Island, at the age of eighteen.  From 1916 to 1920,   she developed innovative methods to rapidly teach adults to read and write, based on everyday materials like the Sears catalog.  Continuing to teach in rural schools, over the years, she completed her BA from historically Black Benedict College in 1942, and later received a Master’s Degree, from Historically Black Hampton University.

Clark is most famous for establishing "Citizenship Schools" teaching reading to adults throughout the Deep South, and helping people register to vote.

U.S. President Jimmy Carter awarded Clark a Living Legacy Award in 1979.

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