Septima P. Clark

Interviewee: Septima P. Clark
IWY SC 569
Interviewer: Constance Ashton Myers
Date: June 10-11, 1977

Septima Poinsette Clark was an educator and civil rights activist. In this interview, Clark described her personal history as a retired teacher at the Booker T. Washington high school in Columbia, her involvement in the NAACP, and her teaching career at the Highlander Folk School. She also mentioned her biography entitled Echo in My Soul, published in 1962 by the E. P. Dutton Company of New York.

Sound Recording



Constance Ashton Myers: Dr. Clark? Are you Dr. Septima Clark?

Septima P. Clark: No. Just Septima. (Laughs)

CAM: Tell me what you do, ah, Ms. Clark?

SC: Right now, I’m a retired teacher.

CAM: Teacher.

SC: Yes.

CAM: At what school?

SC: Well, I taught here . . .

CAM: . . . different places?

SC: Oh, yes. Taught here in Columbia for nineteen years.

CAM: Did you? Wow.

SC: And, Ms. Wil Lou Gray, when she had her adult education program for the first time – you know it’s been many years, and, uh – I taught at the Booker T. Washington high school, to the soldiers who came in. And we taught ‘em how to recognize the, um, names of the buses to go back and forth from the fort.

CAM: Did you?

SC: Yeah. But I really retired from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, because I had taught in South Carolina forty-one years.

CAM: Did you?

SC: And then in 1956, the state of South Carolina said that no city or city employee could be a member of the NAACP. And people who told the truth about it, uh, were dismissed. And, uh . . . so, I was one of the dismissed teachers. I went to the Highlander School . . .

CAM: How long were you out? Out of teaching? As a consequence of that dismissal?

SC: ‘Til this day. (Laughs) I’ve never been able to come back in South Carolina and teach. And I had taught forty-one years at that time.

CAM: Ms. Clark, ah, where do you live now?

SC: In Charleston, South Carolina.

CAM: Where were you born?

SC: In Charleston, South Carolina.

CAM: I remember that. And what is your address in Charleston?

SC: Three sixty-four President Street, Charleston.

CAM: Well, we’re awfully glad that you could come. Why did you think that this meeting was something you should come to?

SC: Well, um, when they said, um, that the women of South Carolina were coming together, and, uh, I thought it would be a good thing for me to come to, because, when the first National Organization of Women met in Washington D. C., ah, [2:03, Mrs. Durr?] of Montgomery, Alabama . . .

CAM: Ah, her first name? What was her first name?

SC: What was her first name I don’t remember her first name. But, anyway, she wanted me to go to that, because I was at the Highlander Folk School.

CAM: Oh, yes.

SC: And we were being persecuted . . .

CAM: How long were you at Highlander Folk School?

SC: Ten years.

CAM: Were you really?

SC: Yeah. Worked there for ten years. Got a program.

CAM: Ms. Clark, would you do me a favor? Sometime during this meeting, come to our table, where you can make an autobiographical statement of a longer nature? Uh, our table is out in the hall. Someone will be there that will take your autobiography. And I would be interested in having that for the record. We have Dr. Gray’s already, in the South Caroliniana library.

SC: You know, I have . . . my biographical book was out also. It’s Echo in my Soul. And it came out in 1962. And it was published by . . .

CAM: Who’s the publisher?

SC: The E.P. Dutton Company of New York.

CAM: Would you come back and give an oral autobiography? Later.

SC: I’ll be (unintelligible at 3:15).

CAM: Thank you. Don’t forget us, now.

SC: I won’t.

End of interview