Black History: Septima Clark

Day 12 of 28 of my Black History Month history lessons. For today’s Black History I was inspired by the podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You (@stuffmomnevertoldyou). Thanks @emiliearies and @bridgetmarieindc for highlighting Septima Clark! Some parts of her life were unfortunate but I enjoyed researching her. I started drawing her on my iPad on my way home on the bus yesterday.

“Septima Clark used education as a radical weapon to politicize people.” Martin Luther King referred to her as “The Mother of the Movement.” She believed that “knowledge could empower marginalized groups in ways that formal legal equality couldn’t.”

Septima was born to Peter and Victoria Poinsette. Peter was a enslaved at birth. After slavery, he traveled to Haiti where he met Victoria. They got married in Florida and moved to Charleston. Both her parents were originally from Charleston but her mum had escaped being enslaved by being brought to Haiti. When she got back, Victoria strived to become a middle-class woman and was very strict with her young girls to be ladylike. Her father, Peter, on the other hand ensured his daughter attended school.

Not doing well at school, she was pulled out at age 6 and was taught by a neighbor in exchange of watching the woman’s children. She went on to high school but was unable to attend college initially. Nonetheless she took a state exam and became a teacher at age 18. She received a B. A and eventually a M. A. However, since she was African American she was barred from teaching at public schools. Nonetheless she taught children and illiterate adults on her own time at night. Quite ingenious tactics such as how to read the Sears Catalog were used.

Clark realized the inequality of pay as a teacher. She learnt that white teachers were paid over twice her weekly salary so she became an active proponent for equal pay. Her experience in racist Charleston and teaching in the slums prompted her to work for civil rights.

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