Remembering Septima...

Special to Informer | 4/3/2013, 4:59 p.m.

Clark credits her parents for her strength, fortitude, and insight:

"When I went to Mississippi and Texas and places like the, I had a feeling that his nonviolence helped me to work with the people there and her haughtiness helped me to stay ... I got into many place where we had a lot of harassment from the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Council in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Grenada, Mississippi, and Natchez, Mississippi. I stood on the platform built by my mother and father," Clark wrote.

Clark's long teaching career began at a Black public school on John's Island and in 1918 she accepted a teaching post at Avery. At that time, she was instrumental in getting about 20,000 signatures on a petition to have black teachers hired by the Charleston County School District. After moving to Columbia in 1927 to teach, she helped in a campaign to equalize teacher salaries. In 1956 she was fired from a teaching job in Charleston for being a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

That fighting spirit, according to Clark was something that had to be ignited. Ultimately, self-awareness and pride would push fear aside in any oppressed people. By teaching others how to push forward, Clark dismantled centuries-old beliefs of racial inferiority.

"It gave people the courage to say I am going to be a registered voter. When they understood the relevance and the connectedness between being registered to vote and righting a lot of the other things that were wrong in the community, that's where the courage came from to say let's do it. Everywhere there was a really effective movement in Mississippi, at the heart of that movement was the people who had taken the citizenship education program," noted Victoria Gray, who trained under Clark.

Through her efforts, Clark challenged elders, who knew firsthand the brutality and long-reaching retaliatory nature of white supremacy. By aiding them in mustering their courage, defining their personhood, and demanding the proper scope of citizenship, Clark effectively invigorated multi-generations of African Americans to social victory.

Clark's autobiography, "Echo in My Soul," was published in 1962, and her struggles in the Civil Rights Movement were reported in 1986 as a first-person narrative in "Ready from Within," which won the 1987 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.

Clark died in 1987 at the age of 89.