Septima Poinsette Clark



Clark was born in 1898 and till her death in 1987; she was an American educator, as well as an activist for civil rights (Charron, 2009). The choice of Clark was mainly because of her role in developing citizenship and literacy workshops that urged the African American to vote. Moreover, her work encompassed the need to educate the minority on their rights in a bid to empower them against marginalization. She was commonly referred to “Queen Mother” in civil movements setting, and even Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledged her impeccable work of advocacy (Charron, 2009). The paper aims to discuss three biographical events undertaken by Clark’s. The paper will also discuss the importance of these pivotal events and the lessons learnt from her work.

Biographical Events

Her involvement in NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) occurred when she returned to Charleston as a teacher, in 1919 (Jenkins, 2005). She joined the movement, but it was not until Austin who was in charge of NACCP in the region gave her the green light. Clark rallied her students to collect signatures through a door-to-door campaign demanding for black principals in Avery’s public schools. Following her mobilization, 10,000 signatures were collected in a record time of a day. The success story was that black principals could be allowed into Charleston public institutions in 1920 (Charron, 2009). Clark went on to demand for equal rights for blacks, and this time round her battle was for equal pay for black teachers which took place in South Carolina. However, her success did not reign for long, as late 1940s proved hard for Clark when she turned against her colleagues in NACCP.

Another key event was that her hiring in Highlander Folk School located in Tennessee following the refusal of school in South Carolina to employ her. She was bestowed with the responsibility of directing workshops. True to her activism, she began coaching literacy courses and before long she mobilized illiterate Negros and sharecroppers into voters (Jenkins, 2005). The institution claimed to be her refuge as she engaged in massive voter registration, taught them to sign checks, as well as filling out driving license forms. Her success in the workshops was heard far and wide and many people came to the school to witness her advocacy. As a result, Ella Baker an official of SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) visited Clark at Highlander to assess whether her program could be integrated into its “Crusade for Citizenship” (Stewart, & Bennett, 1991).

The most celebrated event by Clark was that of establishing “Citizenship Schools” which aided in adult education. The literacy campaigns were an empowerment platform for the black community. Her approach was such that politics were integrated into the needs of the blacks as well as citizenship rights (Davis, 1991). Her target was the rural dwellers and the lessons were conducted behind shops to evade from white racists. The lessons allowed blacks to appreciate the power of their votes as well as build following into the movement. These schools were a support base to Martin Luther King’s nonviolent movements.


In the schooling context, multicultural students undergo challenges similar of discrimination including overcrowding of students in a class (Brewer, 2012). Moreover, students from minority groups are viewed as weak in their studies and as such he teachers do not pay much attention to them. In most cases such students receive rejection form the teachers, more so when they are in the presence of the majority race (Banks & Mcgee, 2013). In light of a black child schooling in a whites dominant institution, the teachers may tend to be ignored by the teachers or even receive humiliation in the classroom. When Clark decided to educate her students on catering for their needs by filling out driving license tests and signing their checks, it was an empowerment chance for them to be independent.


Clark’s aggression on educating the blacks on their voting rights as well as empowering them can be applied to the schooling setting. This can be useful in teaching the students on the importance of voting in their own school leaders and exercising their patriotic rights. Moreover, a student ought to understand that when own uses their vote; it is a voice to bring about change (Stewart, & Bennett, 1991). Furthermore, a student from a minority group may empower his/her colleagues to comprehend their studies as well as stay independent by setting up forums and being engaged in various workshops. Forming cultural workshops and clubs not only serve to discuss regional issues, but also bring their minds together towards academic progress.

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  1. James A. Banks & Cherry A. Mcgee Banks. (2013). Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives, John Wiley & Sons: Danvers: MA.
  2. Davis, F. J. (1991). Who is Black? One nation’s definition. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press
  3. Stewart, E. C., & Bennett, M. J. (1991). American cultural patterns: A cross-cultural perspective (rev. Ed.). Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.
  4. Brewer, R. M. (2012). Feminist movement. In J. A. Banks (Ed.), Encyclopedia of diversity in education. (vol. 2, pp. 896–901). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  5. Katherine Mellen Charron, (2009) Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark, Univ of North Carolina Press: Walbaum, MT
  6. Carolyn P. Jenkins. (2005)Septima P. Clark and the Citizenship Schools: Implications for Critical Pedagogy, University of South Carolina.
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