Septima Poinesette Clark Speaks–Examples of an Oral History Interview

SCBHB Legend Septima P. Clark

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 daycare center, and an auditorium bearing her name, she died in Charleston and is buried in the Old Bethel Methodist Cemetery.

Here is an example of an oral history by Peter Wood, who interviewed South Carolina legend–Activist and Educator Septima Clark.

Peter Wood: Let’s go back to the very beginning. Tell me more about your mother.

Septima Clark: She was born in Charleston, but her mother died early and left three little girls. But they had two brothers working in a cigar factory down in Haiti, and they came up and took these three girls down with them. And my father, then, who had come out of slavery—he was on that Joel Poinsette farm, came out of slavery. He was on a Clyde Line Steamer. They met and got married. Then they came back to Charleston. I really appreciate my mother who was so courageous—talked back and let people know that she wasn’t going to stand for any foolishness.



Leave a comment below with some questions you would ask Ms. Clark!

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