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Septima P. Clark papers

 Collection
Identifier: AMN 1000

Collection Overview

The collection contains material relating to the life and work of Septima P. Clark. The biographical papers include tributes, clippings, certificates, awards, family correspondence and transcripts of various oral history interviews in which Clark discusses her parents; husband; growing up and race relations in Charleston, SC; work with Myles and Zylphia Horton, Guy and Candie Carawan and others, such as Bernice Robinson and Esau Jenkins in such places as Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, TN and on Johns Island, SC; Judge J. Waties and Elizabeth Waring; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; her work in Citizenship Schools; her work at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and in the civil rights movement with people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Stokely Carmichael, Dorothy Cotton, Ella Baker, Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, Ralph David Abernathy and others. She often mentions the inferior way women were treated by SCLC staff and there are a few references to the Charleston SC Hospital Worker's strike in 1969.

A series on her works includes a photocopy of her autobiography Echo in My Soul, with related papers; handwritten, typed, photocopied and printed versions of talks and essays on civil rights, race and racism, non-violence, God and religion, American youth, tributes to individuals and other topics. Her correspondence, mostly arranged by correspondent, includes numerous local and state black and white politicians; a partial letter to Ella Gerber regarding Porgy and Bess, a significant series of letters with writer Josephine Carson (Rider), and from Spelman College professor Vincent Harding, with some of his articles. Presidential materials include a photocopy of a Jimmy Carter letter; a letter from Gerald Ford; and an invitation to inauguration of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.

A series documenting her affiliations begins with a her association with Charleston schools, and contains photocopies of correspondence regarding losing of her job in 1956 as a teacher for being a member of the NAACP; her service (1975-1978) on the Charleston County School Board; and other connections with various educational endeavors. The series also includes papers regarding her association with the Highlander Folk Center; papers regarding her work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with material on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the trip to Oslo, Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize; papers regarding Penn Community Center, Frogmore, SC and Clark's relationship with it; publications, program materials and correspondence regarding Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and local Charleston Chapter, Gamma Xi Omega; materials regarding various women's groups with which she was affiliated including the Coming Street Young Women's Christian Association in Charleston, SC Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, National Council of Negro Women, and others; materials regarding various civil rights, African American and political groups and causes for which she worked, including, Blacks United for Action; Charleston Liberation Party; Citizens Committee of Charleston County; a list of grievances regarding the Charleston Hospital Worker's strike, brochures from various African American political campaigns (including Marjorie Amos, George Fuller, Victoria DeLee, George Payton and others), groups to free jailed African Americans (including Robert Lee Smith, convicted of murder at age 13); the US Commission on Civil Rights, State Advisory Committee of SC; Neighborhood Legal Assistance and other similar groups. Her church papers include materials regarding Old Bethel Methodist Church, Charleston, SC, and other various Methodist groups, and her papers documenting her relationship with arts groups contain a nearly complete script of Sea Island Song by Alice Childress.

Other materials documenting Clark's association with social, health care and literary-related agencies include papers regarding the Septima Clark Day Care Center, and papers dealing with the handicapped and mentally retarded. Her relationships with various schools cover institutions such as College Seven, University of California-Santa Cruz, with copies of the writings of Provost J. Herman Blake, her alma maters, Benedict College and Hampton University, including student papers submitted at Hampton regarding Saxon Elementary School, Columbia, SC, and materials documenting unrest at Allen University, Columbia, SC, and at Voorhees College, Denmark, SC. Audio-visual materials include reel to reel tapes and cassettes of Clark's speeches at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, regarding her life, work and beliefs; a recording of Clark leading a workshop, and other tapes.

Photographs show Septima Clark, Poinsette and Clark family members, various functions, including Alpha Kappa Alpha debutantes, programs and events participated in by Clark and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, including teaching programs at various spots and the Charleston Hospital Workers' strike. Including images of Andrew Young, James Orange, Esau Jenkins, Ralph David Abernathy, Hosea Williams, Bernice Robinson, Jesse Jackson, Dorothy Cotton, Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, and others; with photos of staff at Howard and Celia Dale Saxon Schools, Columbia, SC. Artifacts include silver-plate and other trays, trophies, glass, plaques, an academic hood, a small hide-covered African shield, and related materials; oversize items include diplomas, photos, and posters, including one honoring and signed by Rosa Parks and Septima Clark.

Dates

  • approximately 1910-1990

Creator

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Copyright Notice

The nature of the Avery Research Center's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Avery Research Center claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Biographical Note

Septima Poinsette Clark was born in Charleston, South Carolina on May 3, 1898, the daughter of Peter Porcher Poinsette, who grew up a slave on the plantation of Joel Roberts Poinsett (with conflicting data saying he came on the ship the Wanderer), and Victoria Anderson who grew up mostly in Haiti. The family lived on Henrietta Street; Clark attended small private schools and Avery Institute, getting a teacher's certificate in 1916. Laws did not allow blacks to teach in black city schools, so Clark taught for three years in black schools on rural Johns Island. She married Nerie Clark (1889-1925) of North Carolina, a navy cook in 1920; they had one surviving child Nerie Clark, Jr. (1925- ). Nerie Clark, Sr. died in 1925 when the family was living in Dayton, Ohio. Clark returned to the south, received her BA from Benedict College in 1942 and an MA from Hampton Institute in 1946. She taught in various schools throughout South Carolina, furthering the cause of civil rights; in 1956, she was fired from the Charleston school system for being a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Clark next worked in Monteagle, Tennessee, where she taught adult education in an integrated environment at the Highlander Folk Center; much of her work was aimed at practical education, empowering disenfranchised African Americans to register to vote and become active in social issues. In 1957, she staged her model Citizenship School on Johns Island, teaching those there how to read and pass voter registration tests. She continued with such schools until Highlander Folk Center had its charter revoked by the state of Tennessee in 1961. The schools were transferred to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Atlanta, Georgia, and in her capacity as training supervisor, she helped fuel the growing civil rights movement in the American South, working with the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. (accompanying him to Oslo, Norway in 1964 to accept his Nobel Peace Prize), Dorothy Cotton, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, Ralph David Abernathy and others. Retiring from SCLC and buying a house on President Street, Clark spent her remaining years active in a number of capacities, on the school board, in church work, involved in numerous feminist, African American and civil rights causes, creating day care centers, trying to get scholarships for students, and never retreating from her dedication to equal rights and opportunities for all. A recipient of honorary doctorates and with a highway, a day care center, and an auditorium bearing her name, she died in Charleston on December 15, 1987 and is buried in the Old Bethel Methodist cemetery.

Books on her include her autobiography, Echo in My Soul (1962) and Ready From Within: Septima Clark and Civil Rights Movement, edited and introduced by Cynthia Stokes (1986, 1990). She appears cloaked under the name Charity Simmons in the book, Silent Voices: The Southern Negro Woman Today (1969) by Josephine Carson, who dedicated the book to her.

Extent

11.5 linear feet (15 archival boxes, 3 record cartons, 2 oversize boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987) was born in Charleston, South Carolina to Peter Porcher Poinsette and Victoria Anderson. Clark attended small private schools and Avery Institute, getting a teacher's certificate in 1916. She married Nerie Clark (1889-1925) of North Carolina, a navy cook in 1920; they had one surviving child Nerie Clark, Jr. (born 1925). Clark received her BA from Benedict College in 1942 and an MA from Hampton Institute in 1946. She taught in various schools throughout South Carolina, furthering the cause of civil rights. She helped fuel the growing civil rights movement in the American South, working with the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Cotton, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, Ralph David Abernathy and others. After retiring, Clark spent her remaining years active in a number of capacities, on the school board, in church work, involved in numerous feminist, African American and civil rights causes, creating day care centers, trying to get scholarships for students, and never retreating from her dedication to equal rights and opportunities for all. A recipient of honorary doctorates and with a highway, a day care center, and an auditorium bearing her name, she died in Charleston and is buried in the Old Bethel Methodist cemetery.

The collection contains material relating to the life and work of Septima P. Clark. The biographical papers include tributes, clippings, certificates, awards, family correspondence and transcripts of various oral history interviews in which Clark discusses her parents; husband; growing up and race relations in Charleston, South Carolina; her work in Citizenship Schools; her work at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and in the civil rights movement with people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Stokely Carmichael, Dorothy Cotton, Ella Baker, Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, Ralph David Abernathy and others. There are a few references to the Charleston South Carolina Hospital Worker's strike in 1969. A series on her works includes a photocopy of her autobiography Echo in My Soul, with related papers; various versions of talks and essays on civil rights, race and racism, non-violence, God and religion, American youth, tributes to individuals and other topics. Her correspondence includes numerous local and state black and white politicians; a partial letter to Ella Gerber regarding Porgy and Bess, a significant series of letters with writer Josephine Carson (Rider), and from Spelman College professor Vincent Harding, with some of his articles. Presidential materials include a photocopy of a Jimmy Carter letter; a letter from Gerald Ford; and an invitation to inauguration of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. A series documenting her affiliations begins with a her association with Charleston schools, and contains correspondence regarding losing of her job in 1956 as a teacher for being a member of the NAACP; her service (1975-1978) on the Charleston County School Board; and other connections with various educational endeavors. The series also includes papers regarding her association with the Highlander Folk Center; papers regarding her work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with material on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; papers regarding the Penn Community Center and Clark's relationship with it; publications, program materials and correspondence regarding Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and local Charleston Chapter, Gamma Xi Omega; materials regarding various women's groups with which she was affiliated; materials regarding various civil rights, African American and political groups and causes for which she worked; a list of grievances regarding the Charleston Hospital Worker's strike, brochures from various African American political campaigns, groups to free jailed African Americans; the US Commission on Civil Rights, State Advisory Committee of SC; Neighborhood Legal Assistance and other similar groups. Her church papers include materials regarding Old Bethel Methodist Church, Charleston, SC, and other various Methodist groups, and her papers documenting her relationship with arts groups contain a nearly complete script of Sea Island Song by Alice Childress. Other materials documenting Clark's association with social, health care and literary-related agencies include papers regarding the Septima Clark Day Care Center, and papers dealing with the handicapped and mentally retarded. Her relationships with various schools cover institutions such as College Seven, University of California-Santa Cruz, Benedict College and Hampton University, including student papers submitted at Hampton regarding Saxon Elementary School, Columbia, SC, and materials documenting unrest at Allen University, Columbia, SC, and at Voorhees College, Denmark, SC. Audio-visual materials include reel to reel tapes and cassettes of Clark's speeches at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, regarding her life, work and beliefs; a recording of Clark leading a workshop, and other tapes. Photographs show Septima Clark, Poinsette and Clark family members, various functions, programs and events participated in by Clark and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, including teaching programs at various spots and the Charleston Hospital Workers' strike.

Collection Arrangement

1. Biographical Papers, 1960-1988 and undated

2. Works: Writings, Talks, Lectures and Speeches, 1954-1983

3. Correspondence, 1964-1985

4. Affiliations, 1942-1985

5. Audio-Visual Material, 1920s-1980s

6. Artifacts, 1961-1987

7. Oversize Material, 1982-1983

Related Material

Septima P. Clark Scrapbook [AMN 1000a]

Digital Collection:Septima Poinsette Clark Scrapbook

Processing Information

Processed by Harlan Greene, 2005

Encoded by Melissa Bronheim, July 2010

Funding from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supported the processing and encoding of this finding aid.

Funding from the Council on Library and Information Resourcessupported the encoding of this finding aid.

Title
Inventory of the Septima P. Clark Papers, circa 1910 - 1990 AMN 1000
Status
Completed
Author
Melissa Bronheim
Description rules
DACS
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English
Sponsor
Funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources supported the collection processing and encoding of this finding aid.

Repository Details

Part of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture Repository

Contact:
125 Bull Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424 United States
843-953-7608