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Title: Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 25, 1976. Interview G-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Clark, Septima Poinsette, interviewee
Interview conducted by Hall, Jacquelyn
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 380 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-02-05, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 25, 1976. Interview G-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0016)
Author: Jacquelyn Hall
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 25, 1976. Interview G-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0016)
Author: Septima Poinsette Clark
Description: 415 Mb
Description: 109 p.
Note: Interview conducted on July 25, 1976, by Jacquelyn Hall; recorded in Charleston, South Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Jean Houston.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series G. Southern Women, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 25, 1976.
Interview G-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Clark, Septima Poinsette, interviewee


Interview Participants

    SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK, interviewee
    JACQUELYN HALL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
JACQUELYN HALL:
. . . what your parents were like?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, my name is Septima Clark, and I was born in Charleston, South Carolina, May 3, 1898. My mother and father lived at that time on Wentworth Street, and the house is now bought by the College of Charleston. In 1904, I can remember, we moved to 17 Henrietta Street, and there I must have been about six years of age at that time, and I started going to school. I went to what they called Mary Street School, and at that school they had what they called at that time an ABC gallery where the children of six years were placed. There must have been a hundred children on that gallery; it was like a baseball stadium with the bleachers. You sat up on those bleachers. And the only thing I could see the teachers could do was to take you to the bathroom and back. By the time she got us all to the bathroom and back, it was about time to go home. We didn't learn too much, and my mother was aware of that so she took me out of that public school, and there were numbers of elderly women in Charleston who kept little schools in their homes. And so I went to one on Logan Street, where the Fielding Funeral Home is today. And at that school, run by a Mrs. Nuckels, I learned to read and write. And she taught us a very hard way. If you couldn't spell a word that she asked you, why, she whipped every letter in your hands. This was the way we learned to spell.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Could we go back a little bit, and tell me what your father's name was and what your mother's name was?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
My mother's name was Victoria Warren Anderson Poinsette, and my father was Peter Porcher Poinsette. My mother was reared in Haiti.

Page 2
As a little girl, she lost her mother, and her brother was working down in Haiti as a cigar sampler, and he took the three young children who were left when the mother died down to Haiti with him. So my mother then learned to read and write; the English in Haiti did a better job than was done by the slaves in South Carolina.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where had she lived? She lived in Florida before she went to Haiti?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, she lived here in Charleston.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, she did. She was born in Charleston.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, born in Charleston and lived in Charleston before she moved to Haiti.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know anything about her mother and father?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I had a picture of her mother, and her mother was a part of an Indian tribe here. It must have been Indian and black mixed together.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You don't know what Indian tribe it was?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
It was one of the offshoots of the Santee Indian tribe, as I understand.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was her name?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I didn't know my grandmother's name. And although we had a picture of her, I really didn't know her name.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about your mother's father? Did you know anything about him?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, not anything. I never did hear anything about her father.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was she very young when her mother died?

Page 3
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. They must have been something like six, four, and two—there were three girls—at that time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she ever talk about growing up in Haiti, any stories [unknown] ?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Quite a bit. She talked about learning to read and write down there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In the public school?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, I wondered whether it was a public school or not, but whatever school it was, she boasted that she was never a slave; she was a free issue, and so she never had to go through the regulations of a slave. She never worked in the field at all, so evidently they had a different life from that of my father.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She was born when, in 1872?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She died in 1961 at the age of around ninety, so she must have been born somewhere. . . . She got married in 1890. I never tried to figure out, you know, the exact year that she was born. But it was quite some time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she talk about this uncle that she lived with?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Her brother.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Her brother. He was a cigar sampler?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, a sampler.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What does that . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, they had a cigar factory down there, and after the cigars were made they had to sort of [unknown] they examined them to see that they were all right before they went on the market. And put on the band. I don't remember the name of the

Page 4
cigar that they were working on.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I think I remember you saying in your book that her brothers were very light-skinned?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The one that she lived with was what they called of a Creole complexion. But I saw him. I can remember him, because, after so long a time, after she'd married and come back to Charleston, I went down to Jacksonville, Florida, and this is where he was living, down in Jacksonville.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I wondered if she had white ancestors that she knew of or talked about.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The only thing she talked about was the Indian part of the family. But she had a sister who was very fair. Well, her mother, I understand, had three sets of children, and there were three of them that were pretty fair and three of them that were brown-skinned and then three of them that were sort of a ginger color but not very dark.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Three different men?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, it must have been.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about your father's background?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, my father, I understand, came over on the ship Wanderer to some part of Georgia. And slaves were portioned out in many parts of South Carolina and Georgia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The slave trade wouldn't have still been going on when he . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Not as I know of, but somehow or other they came from one of the Bahama Islands, and it must have been that his mother must have been brought to the Bahamas and from the Bahamas to Georgia and from

Page 5
Georgia into various parts of South Carolina. That's the way I understood it. And I remember a brother of his who went out West when they had the gold exploration out there, and he was a very fair man. I met one in New York City, and he was brown-skinned. My father was dark-skinned; you can tell by that picture. So they were really very mixed.
JACQUELYN HALL:
These were his brothers.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, they were his brothers.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he and his brothers all grow up on the same plantation?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, they were all scattered.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But they knew each other?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
They knew each other, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about his parents? Do you know anything about them?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I heard of his mother, but I never did know whether he came over from the Bahamas as a boy, or his mother was pregnant at the time. And I knew of a sister that he had, and she was a Schein, and she settled in Monks Corner. Some of her grandchildren or greatgrand's are around today. One is in New York. But I never heard him speak of a father, not at all.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And as far as you know, his mother was not on the plantation with him where he grew up.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, she wasn't there. No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was her name, do you know?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Maggie. It was Maggie Schein when I knew her.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know his mother?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Unh-uh.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you knew of her.

Page 6
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I knew of her.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And he grew up where, then?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
It's on the Joel Poinsett plantation. It's near Georgetown, South Carolina and on the Waccamaw River, as I understand, above the Wando.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And Joel Poinsett was the inventor of the poinsettia, and he was a Unionist.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, and gave the poinsettia his name.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did he fare in the South just before and during the Civil War, as a Unionist? Did you ever hear any stories about that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, I read some, and it hasn't been too long, when this guy Sam Slate, who's writing a book on Joel Poinsett, came in—that was just a month ago—from Connecticut, and he sent me a book called Satan's Corner, and it talks about Joel Poinsett. But they [unknown] that, although there were slaves on his plantation, that he was a very non-violent man and had wonderful ways of working with the slaves.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your father say that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, my father never found any fault with him whatsoever. In fact, he didn't find any fault with any white people at that time; he was just that way. The reading and writing that he didn't get didn't bother him. He just talked about taking these kids to school and not ever being able to go in and learn to write his name. But he didn't feel worried about that, either. And he sat outside all day long with the horse until they came out of school, but not once did he go in their classroom. But it didn't bother him.

Page 7
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he talk very positively about Joel Poinsett or about the white people at that time?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of things did he say? When he told you stories about the slavery days, how did he talk about it?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, I can remember this one in particular. That's right, his mother was there; his mother died on that plantation. And he told about his mother dying, and he said that they put the body in that little. . . . They stayed in this little shack all night long until they could get somebody to make a coffin, and then at night they went by night to bury it, through the woods. They didn't have time in the day. And they got back before sunrise and went right back to work. But he still didn't say it in a violent tone, but this is what they did. I can remember him talking about that. He said that they lighted these flambeaus and went through the woods singing, and how they would sing while they were working to tell the people where they were going to be that night. That's the way they did it. That's the way they sent the message.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What would they sing, I wonder?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, they would sing something about "Way down yonder by the cornfield," and that would let the people know . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
That there was going to be a funeral.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
. . . that there was going to be this funeral and where it was going to be, in the woods by the cornfield.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he say that Poinsett never whipped his slaves?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He didn't say that. He was amused at some of the people who

Page 8
had to get whippings. It sort of amused him, I guess, as a boy to see a man wincing and receiving a whipping. And he said they got that because they would steal. I guess they wanted some of the food from the bake-house, is what he said. And sometimes, he said, the cook would put a key out on the outside, and they would get this key and go into a smokehouse or one of the houses where the food was stored. And when they were caught, they got a whipping.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And he thought that they deserved it.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. It amused him to see them wincing and getting whipped.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why would that amuse him?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I guess the antics of the slave, and actually not knowing really what it meant, that those people's freedom were being taken away from them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was his work?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
To take the children to school and back.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That was the main thing that he did?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That was the main thing he did while he was there. And then when the Civil War came, he took water to the soldiers who were fighting to keep him a slave, to fight against the people in the harbor who were coming to free him. He really felt that it was perfectly all right. And carrying wood to stoke the cannons to shoot the balls at those ships.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, what did he think when emancipation came?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
"There was a turning to my mind" in his thinking, because he claimed that lots of people cried because they didn't know that they were going to be able to have any food. And they only thought of that

Page 9
paternalistic life that they had, where they were furnished food and that one piece of cloth that covered their body. This is what they told me. And I can't remember the name of that thing that they used to make to cover them, and that's all they had. A man would bring up some cloth, and each one would get a piece and just cover them with whatever, that little shirt thing that they wore; this was all that they had. Well, a number of them felt that they wouldn't have this any more, and so he said they really cried. But there were always some people who were against this thing. There were some people on the plantation who had a different way of thinking, but he never sided with any of them. [unknown] Dinmont Leasey would not have been a friend of his, because he didn't have that kind of a feeling
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had he ever heard of Dinmont Leasey?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Not as I know of. But I'm just using him, because he could see what was happening. But Dinmont Leasey had had some experience away from plantations, you know, and I guess that helped him. My father had such a. . . . Well, I guess they had Christianized him. Joel Poinsett never had any children. He married late, and he married a woman whose name was McGuire. And she had children. Those were the children that he worked with all the time, taking them to school and bringing them back to the plantation. He was one of the house servants—they used to say "house natives"—and they felt themselves so much better than those who worked in the field. He didn't work in the field. So when slavery was over, he found a job working on a ship.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In Charleston harbor?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
In Charleston harbor, but he went down into the West Indies

Page 10
and Savannah, Florida, and other places that the ship went. And that's where my mother met him, down in Haiti, on a ship, and then they came to Jacksonville and they got married in Jacksonville and came back to Charleston to live.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you mean by saying that he had a change of mind or a turn of mind?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
When we were children, the one thing he wanted was for us to have an education. This was the only thing that I know he would whip you for, if you didn't want to go to school. And there were times we didn't want to go. That's the only time I can remember getting a whipping from him. Because I cried one morning I didn't want to go to that school, and so he whipped me with a strap and then took me down there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He never complained about not having an education himself?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
After the First World War and the government started paying him checks, and how he got that job, a sister of Joel Poinsett's wife wanted him to have a job, and so he became a custodian at the first USO that was opened here on King Street. And when he became a custodian there, they paid him in checks and he had to sign his name or make the "X", and that's when he got down and learned to sign his name, but that was quite some time. Because they had had eight children by that time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he ever talk about Reconstruction, about the violence in the Ku Klux Klan and the things that happened during the Reconstruction

Page 11
period at all?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
It never seemed to have bothered him whatsoever. He talked about the fightings, but it never seemed to give him any great worry whatsoever.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So that he didn't vote, for example, during the Reconstruction period or try to exercise any kind of . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. And my mother always talked about that. She would say to him, you know, that "You can't see what's happening. You're just no good." Because he never felt that he could change [unknown] . Not at all.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Tell me a bit about your mother's nature. What was she like?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She was haughty, very much so. She'd grown up in Haiti, and seemingly, in learning to read and write, she'd also learned something about the government. And she was against slavery, terribly so, and she just actually hated the name of it. She always claimed that she never was a servant, and she wasn't going to be one. Well, she was really the boss of the house, and everything that she said had to go. She was the person you really had to listen to, because she did most of the whipping. Yet, still, she washed and ironed at home, but she never felt as if she could go out and work. And she used to boast about "I never gave a white woman a cup of coffee" . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, really?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
. . . because she felt that that would make her a servant. Vegetable carts used to come through the street, and she would never go out of her door to go to the wagon to purchase vegetables. Not her. That was not the culture of a lady. You'd sit in your door—they had

Page 12
these littlewell-holes, like, on the steps—and the man brought the vegetables in to her, and she'd choose what she wanted, and then they went back out [unknown] . And she always wanted somebody—like you say "Jacquelyn" ;no—put a handle to her name. She was always wanting people to say "Miss" or "Mrs." In speaking to us about my father, she just said "your father" or "Mr. Poinsette". She had been trained that way, and this was her training. But I really appreciate her courage, because, in the days when segregation was very great, she had courage enough to speak against it to us. We lived on a street that was integrated, and there was an Irishman down the street who didn't want you to skate in front of his door. And so she would always have something to say about it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she speak to him?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Right out to him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What would she say?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
[unknown] just tell him that the street didn't belong to him. [unknown] He said, "Well, I paid for in front of my door." You had to pay for the paving in front of the door [unknown] . But she said, "That doesn't allow you the right to tell these children they can't skate past that door." But we were afraid of him, and when we got to his door we'd always slide around into the street and go on. [laughter] [unknown] didn't like
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was it common for the streets to be integrated at that . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
At that time. Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you were growing up?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
We had Italians and Irish on that same street, and Germans,

Page 13
all living in between.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did the children play with each other? Did black and white children play together?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, unh-uh, as a rule they didn't. When the black children were out in the street playing, all of the whites or the others would be in their homes. And whenever the white children came out, why, the parents kept you away from them, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your mother have any good relationships with her white neighbors, any friendly relationships with the whites and the blacks?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I couldn't say yes. I know she didn't have. My father would speak to everyone, but my mother wouldn't. And there was a group of I guess they were either Germans or Irish right across from me, and they had a car out in the street and they sold this bootleg, and they would come and sit on our step, you know, and when people'd come up you'd see them going into this car, you know, selling the bootleg liquor from that car. I really didn't know what they were doing at that time. My mother didn't want them to sit on her step. I guess she understood what they were doing. And she would lock the door and then take some water and throw under the door, and they couldn't understand where this water was coming from. That's the way she did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You mean she would wet the step and then go inside and lock the door?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She'd throw it down?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Throw it underneath the door.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, under the door.

Page 14
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. Throw it very quietly. Yes. They'd be getting up and looking, wondering where this water was coming from.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Amazing.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She had this kind of [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Can you think, were there other instances of confrontation that she had with whites or with the authorities?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, with a policeman. I think I told you, when our dog scratched the little boy's face and the woman called a policeman.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was it a white boy's?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
White boy's. We didn't have colored at [unknown] . And she told him that she didn't know where the dog was, and she'd put the dog up in the attic. And he wanted to know whose dog it was, and she says, "My daughter, and my daughter's dead," which was true. And he wanted to come in to look, and she refused to let him. She said, "Don't you put your feet across the sill of my door." She had a little saying. She'd say, "I'm a little piece of leather, but I'm well put together," "And if you come through here, something's going to happen to you." She meant that, too. She would fight if she had to.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your parents keep a gun in the house at all?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, not as I know of. I never had seen a gun there. Just that tone. [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Just that tone. [laughter]
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
And she had that tone she would talk with all the time, and people understood it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she try to make her daughters into ladies?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Very much so. But she never could get me to be one. [unknown] all of that.

Page 15
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did that mean, to be a lady?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, it means never to go out without your gloves on, never to let anybody know what you are going for. She said, "If you're going downtown for a common pin, it's nobody's business." And you dare not holler across the street. You're not supposed to [unknown] across and say, "Hey, Sally!" or "Hey, Sue!" That's not the sign of a lady. And you never eat on the street. And if a neighbor down the street would say that they saw us coming through the street eating—and you could buy some peanuts for a penny, just a lot of peanuts, and there was a baker across there, you could get some cookies, and we'd get a big bag for a nickel—but if you ate that thing in the street and somebody told her, you got whipped. You shouldn't eat in the street; that wasn't the sign of a lady.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, what about the other people that lived in your neighborhood and went to your church and so on? Did these uphold these same standards, or did she think that the children you played with, for example, were a little bit beneath you or too rowdy?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Any child who would come from school with me, she would want to know, "Does your mother know that you're here?" "No." "Well, then, go home to your mother. You can't stay and play." And only on Friday afternoons could we play. All the rest of the afternoons you had to get your lessons. And then she had work cut out for you to do. She'd either have a tub of clothes ready for you to wash or the ironing board ready for you to iron. But you didn't have a chance to play in that street, not at all,
JACQUELYN HALL:
Only on Friday?

Page 16
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Now in the summertime when daylight was a little longer, you could sit out on that step and maybe talk with each other, but we didn't run up and down that street [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there a difference in what your brothers could do and what you could do?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, much, uh-huh.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
When my brother came along, the one that's living here now, he could bring people into the house and play games with them that the girls couldn't do.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, she had a feeling, and this was her way of saying it, that you'll be attract to men. Men are here to ask, and women to refuse, until the proper time. And if you accept favors from men, men are going to mark you, and then you will be no good. She always said that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So even when you were very young, she didn't want you to play with boys?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, no, not boys. My goodness, you never could play with the boys.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, really? Even when you were very young?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Uh-huh. They came to play with my brothers, all well and good, they could play with them, but we would have something else to do in the house while your brothers played with them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know what that meant, that men would mark you?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, she meant that they would want to have sexual intercourse.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But did you understand what she meant when you were a child?

Page 17
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, no, not in the beginning.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she ever actually talk about sex as you got older? Did she tell you about sex?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. There was a lady down the street from us. And I had a sister—she's dead now—but she really liked the boys. And the boys would bring her home from school and leave her at the corner. But if this woman saw her letting a boy bring her to the corner and she told my mother, she would whip her every time. She didn't want this. She was very strict when it came to things like that. And we went to our aunt's house every other week to play with her children. One week she'd tell you [unknown] if she offered you anything you could take it; the next week, you'd better not take it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That was a sign of poor manners, to go and be hungry. She had those ways with her, and she kept them till she died.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And did she whip you a lot, often?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, she never whipped me too much, because I was very cautious of the things that I knew that she disliked. She didn't want you to say "Well" nor "What?" to her, so I had to be very particular about that. I tried to correct her one morning when she was telling her sister something, so she slapped my teeth out of the front of my mouth and made me wash it out with some salt and water and go right on to Sunday school. So I knew then how she was going to do. And that same night she wanted me to say "God bless Mama," and I wouldn't do it, so she whipped me again and put me into bed. She couldn't get me to say it; I just wouldn't say it. I quarrelled with her, and I wouldn't

Page 18
say it. But I learned from that, though, that it was best not to try to antagonize her. I also learned that. . . . I was on King Street. She used to walk us out—that was part of our vacation—she would take all of us, and we could walk down King Street to the Battery and back uptown on a Sunday afternoon. I saw a little white girl drop a bag of candy, and I started to pick some up. Boy, did she give me a spanking on the street.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, really? Were you picking it up to help her put it back in the bag, or you were going to keep it?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I was going to keep it, but I didn't have any idea. Because the little girl's mother was not going to let her have it, since it fell on the ground, and I was going to take it. And she knew that that would be an inferiority trait, and she whipped me [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you ever disobey her or try to get around. . . . You said that she never succeeded in making you into a lady.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you resist?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, when I got up and I finished high school and the USO was here, I went there one night from the school to work as a volunteer with the sailors coming in. And I met a sailor that I liked very much. And I was afraid to ask him to come home. But I invited him to church. And he came to church that Sunday, and he brought about six others with him. I was then a real woman teaching, but I still knew what was coming. So anyway after church I couldn't invite him in, neither could I ask him to any dinner, and I couldn't go anywhere with him. So I had to just make an excuse, and they had to go back to the ship. And when I

Page 19
got home, why, she told me that all these sailors were considered terrible people, you know. And all these people sitting in our church and I'm sitting with them, that was an awful thing to her. She didn't whip, because I was getting too large then, but she gave me quite a tongue-lashing about that. And then when I got ready to marry and he came down to ask her about it. . . . But before that I was teaching at Avery here in the city, and he came one weekend. He spent a whole day coming and a day here and a day going back. And we sat on the porch in my house—that's all I could do—and I went to the train, there was a train not too far, with him. And when I came back, the blue from his blue shirt was on my white dress, and I was in for a terrible . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
He had kissed you?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
. . . killing. [laughter] She told me a lot about that, that it surely wasn't a lady to do a thing like that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had you had any boyfriends before him?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, I'd had some, but they were people of Charleston, and they were all right because she knew them. So when I got married, she was very angry about it—I got married when I was teaching at McClellanville—because she said, "You're marrying a man you don't know," because anybody out of the state was somebody that she didn't know. And so that was a terrible thing to do.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I really wondered when I read your book about where you got the gumption to marry this stranger. [laughter]
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What made you do that?

Page 20
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, I always say that there's a time in your life when you're just moved to say no. And this was the time, and my mother, everybody was in it but [unknown] and [unknown] . My father was really different. He felt different about it, but he dared not speak out, either, because she would have jumped down his throat if he had. And my in-laws came down here to visit me one time, and my mother wouldn't fix. . . . I had a child then, two of my sons, little, and they came down one Christmas, and you know, I had to take them out all the time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She wouldn't fix dinner for them or have them eat anything?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she think that they were beneath her in class or just that they were strange?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Very much so. I know she did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about class divisions in Charleston when you were growing up? Where did you and your family fit into that class division?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, because my mother was a washerwoman and my father was a slave, I couldn't go to any of the parties that were given by the upper-class people in Charleston, the middle-class people who had money and whose mothers didn't have to work. And the only way I went to school was because I took care of the lady's children, and she paid the dollar and a half for me a month to go to school, so I was considered, you know, beneath them, and I could not go to any of the parties. And then after I left here and went to Columbia, South Carolina, I knew the city doctors' wives, and the domestic workers all sat around at the table and played bridge. And that was

Page 21
strange to me, because they didn't do it in Charleston. Charleston and New Orleans, I found, had the class and caste system, and mostly they wouldn't. . . . And when I spoke out and said that I was a member of the NAACP, the members of my sorority were very angry with me and would not have their pictures made with me. First, they wouldn't be able to have a job as [unknown] , and secondly, they felt that that was beneath them, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of neighborhood did you live in? What was the class structure?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I lived in a very mixed neighborhood. And there were three families that lived there that today I can consider as kept women. They had white husbands, beautiful children, never married, but they were on a high pedestal. The women didn't work, and they stayed behind closed doors and windows most of the time. One was a German lady, and she was having children for a fellow named Kellenbach and his people [unknown] around here. And she had two children, and I used to go over to her house sometimes. She was a sick woman for quite some time. And I can remember around the sixth grade, when I learned to read pretty well, I went over there and read the Bible to her, chapters of the Bible. And I saw her husband, the man that she was living with. And then we had another family who lived with an Italian man, and they had lots of children. They were Simmonses. And there was another family right beside me. But my mother never visited those people, and they never visited her. The children would speak, passing, but they never came to your house, and we never went to theirs.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It sounds to me like she was upholding very middle-class

Page 22
standards while living economically in the lower class.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's true. That's why she didn't want us to be on the public school galleries, because she wanted you to go to a school where you wouldn't mix with the [unknown] children that she didn't have enough money to [unknown] by.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, how did she feel about her own situation? Did she blame your father for not being able to support her better?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. She said it all the time. She had a little song, and I can't remember the song she used to sing, but she'd say, "The clothes that I put over my head, I'll never put over again." That was one way.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did that mean?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
It meant that her status in life had changed by marrying, and she couldn't buy the kinds of things that she used to buy.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why do you suppose she had married your father? He was a poor sailor who had been a slave.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I have an idea. Her youngest sister fell in love with a man who was the bricklayer. He had a trade. And she had been going with him. They called her "Tory" for Victoria, and one day, she said, her sister came to her and said, "Tory, I've got something to show you." And she had gotten a letter from this fellow, and he wanted to marry her. So he married her little sister. And I think that triggered her to feel as if "I want to marry", so she married the first person that came along. And I can remember all through life she talked about that man. She and her sister had many words about it, but the children, we became great friends.

Page 23
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there conflicts between your mother and father over the fact that your father would not stand up to white people? What kinds of things would happen?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, when he received this little eight dollars a year, she would say to him, "Don't bring any of it here. Just go and buy you a pinch; that's all it's good for. If you can accept eight dollars a year for a pension, that's not worth. . . ." And I remember, too, it was a sad time. She lost a baby—it must have been eight or nine months—and there was no money to pay for the digging of the grave. And I had an aunt whose name was Eliza Poinsette. She was married to a brother of my father, two sisters marrying two brothers, and my mother had to get four dollars from this sister of hers to pay for the digging of this baby's grave. And she cried bitterly; she hated that sister, and she
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
JACQUELYN HALL:
a caterer all the time you were growing up?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Not all the time. For a while. And business didn't pan out to do too well. He was with another fellow named Brownie. They ran a little restaurant downtown, and then they catered at nights to big parties, but she knew they weren't able to make a living. Well, he had this USO job, two at a time, and those were the things that he did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember other things that he did to make a living?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, only catering and running that restaurant and custodian.

Page 24
He was a custodian at the USO.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did any of the children work?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
All of them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Any of the brothers and sisters work for money?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Sure, we [unknown] work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you do?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, my brothers used to carry the papers as little boys. They took papers in the morning and in the afternoon. And, as I said, I took care of a lady's two children that lived across the street from me. She was a dressmaker, and I took care of her children in the mornings and in the afternoons. She paid my tuition. And my sister, she went to a trade to learn to be a dressmaker, but she never did learn.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She never did learn? [laughter]
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Her mind was on other things, and she never did learn to sew. [laughter] And the little ones coming along, they profited from my work, because when I finished high school and took a state examination and started teaching, I could help the family.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes. Did you ever take in boarders? Did your mother ever take in boarders?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. Had too many children.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have any other relatives living with you?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. There were eight of us, you know, and all we could do was to get them sheltered, and we never took in [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you feel about your mother's strictness and harshness when you were a child?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, we'd talk about it all the time. We got together and

Page 25
really panned her for that, but we wouldn't let her hear us. We didn't mind saying it before our father, and then he would say to us, "Everything she does, she's doing it for your good," which was so true.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of things would you say, then?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
We'd talk about her not wanting us to play with other children; that was one thing. And we couldn't sit out on the steps, and on Sunday we dared not play. We only could sit on that porch. . . . We had an organ, and we could stand around the organ and one could play and sing, and those were the only things we could do while other children could be out playing ball or things like that. But we couldn't. If the teacher would tell her anything about us not getting our lessons you dare not talk back [unknown] , and we talked about that quite a bit. And she would go over the lesson with you to see that you got your lesson before you make a mistake. Another thing, she took her time to tie up little packages of lunch for you to take to school, a sandwich and a piece of fruit or something like that. And she'd stand by the door to see if you would open this thing before you would get. . . . And we would wait till we were around the corner and start eating.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[laughter]
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
And if somebody told her, well, you really got a whipping.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you feel much closer to your father?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you like your father better than you did your mother?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I did. Now I don't think that. . . . My sister up here, I always say to her that she stayed in the bed with my mother so long

Page 26
that she's my mother all over.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that right?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She doesn't see changes in people, she always figured that "If I can do a thing, you can do it." So she's more to me like my mother than anybody else. But I never could go along with her in many things, although I couldn't come out and say it to her because she would really get me [unknown] . I knew that I couldn't . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you want to be like your father rather than . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
More so, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was he like? What did you admire about him?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
His easygoing way and his wonderful non-violent spirit of not wanting to [unknown] . And I liked the idea, when I got sense enough to know, of him wanting me to learn to read and write. See, he couldn't; [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did it make him feel when your mother talked about the way that he couldn't support her?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
When she would say things like this to him, most of the time he would say, "Vicky, a hundred years from today you'll never know the difference, and none of those things will make any sense." And he was so right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you think it really didn't bother him?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, I think it bothered him. I think it bothered him because he couldn't get the kind of money that would have helped him to support his wife better. And I understand that they used to, in the early days, go out and go to parties and things, and she was a great dancer and that they had good times. And then after all these

Page 27
children came, she never did go anywhere. For a long time she didn't even want to go to church, because she didn't have the kind of clothes that she wanted to wear.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you know that it bothered him? Did you have a sense of how your father felt?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. I think that, sitting down, reminiscing quite a bit, he would talk about the things that he used to do, and he would wonder about "When will we ever be able to do these things again?" And if he didn't have money enough to buy a number of things that we needed, he would talk about he hated that. So I knew that he felt the fact that he wasn't able to make the kind of money that he needed to make. I can remember her singing those blues so well, talking about the things that she had, she'd never have anymore. She hated it very much. But she did get to the place where she could have everything that she wanted. And my brother got up and was working, and I was working, and there were two others teaching. And I bought a house and I had it repaired, down on Henrietta Street, and the night that we had the opening, oh, she was most jubilant. A lady came and took her out to a movie, and when she came back all these people were there. And it was her birthday, October 25th; I never will forget it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What year was this?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
It must have been '48, just about, because I came back in '47. And that was in 1948. And she just threw her arms around me and said, "Nice, nice to do this." [laughter] I was happy, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And was this the house that the two of you lived in together?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. And my sister came from New York for that party, and

Page 28
we had a big party. [unknown] actually, and had [unknown] the walls all done over, and put a room on downstairs so she wouldn't have to climb steps, for her bedroom and put a bathroom back of it. That's what I did when I was able to. After the teachers' examination my salary was tripled, and I got my master's degree in '46, and then after that I could use my money to buy a home. I tried to buy a home before but I was making too little, and the man wouldn't [unknown] . So my brother, who was working at the time, took it over, and when I came back in '48 I was able to pay him off and have this house and have it repaired, painted and all. She was too happy, but I was hoping that my father could have been alive. I would have liked for him to have been there at the time. But he was gone. He'd gone
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did your mother think when you began to get involved in civic activities and NAACP?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She hated that. Judge Waring and I were great friends—you've heard of Judge Waring.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
And Mrs. Waring came to my house. And the neighborhood had changed, and there were a lot of people who had moved in from the country coming in to the small towns. And they said the reason why we were having a lot of trouble was because of what I was doing, you know, having white people come to my house. And my mother didn't like it too well, either. And so Mrs. Waring came one day, and she just refused to see her. She went into her room and stayed in there. And then I was speaking at the YWCA, and I was Chairman of the Committee on Administration. That must have been in '48, too; it

Page 29
was right after I fixed this house. And Mrs. Waring was the speaker, and most of the white people in Charleston did not want Mrs. Waring to speak. Judge Waring had divorced his wife of thirty years, and she was the wife now. And that was really much against the white people downtown, because they came out at the funeral and said that they didn't mind him opening the primary, but the idea of marrying a Yankee woman, that was a terrible thing. So she spoke that night, and my mother went to that program. And I was sitting up on the stand; I sat with Mrs. Waring. And she was real nervous. She thought somebody would shoot her in the window , you know, for this book. There was much controversy. But we had placed some men by the switches, so that if anybody come I could easily to turn off the lights, you know, we had some men placed there, and the place was packed. And she gave her speech. And if they hadn't been so mean, I don't think she would have said so many mean things to them. But she called them decadent and lowdown and [unknown] . My mother was so nervous. She lost the use of her legs, and we had to take her out like this, bodily .
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you account for that, after she had been so . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Been so courageous. But all of this talk. The opening of the primaries to blacks and Judge Waring marrying this Yankee woman. That thing just got to her; she didn't like that either.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She didn't think he should have married a Yankee woman?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, she felt that. . . . I think most everybody in Charleston felt that if he had gone next door and taken a woman, a Charlestonian, it would have been all right[laughter] But to take a Yankee woman. You know, that was all over the South? I went to a

Page 30
meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, and this woman stood up and she said, "I've been here seventeen years, but I'm still a Yankee, unwanted, but I'm going to speak about this integration anyhow." And she did. But they didn't like her . And that's the way it is. And today I notice that our League of Women Voters, you know who the members are? The wives of the Citadel professors, the wives of the naval base and the Air Force base, and very few of our downtown [unknown] . They just don't come, and the Kerristons, the Culnots, the [unknown] Condons, they won't become a part. No. See, the white women of the South were supposed to be up on a pedestal, and they didn't mix in things like that. They could see their husbands do it now, but they close their eyes to it, and that's it. This is the way they did. And so it hasn't gone yet.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Isn't that something?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
It's still like that. You don't speak out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was the gossip that Judge Waring got involved with this woman, and that's why he divorced his wife?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Mm-hm, that was the gossip.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did his wife still live here in Charleston after he divorced her?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, yes. She lives right around the corner. And Mrs. Waring said she would bring her dog to her house, the second Mrs. Waring, and curb her right in front of her door. She thought that was really something else, the way she did it. We have some funny times.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Charleston is an amazing place.

Page 31
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Uh-huh. We certainly have some real funny times. And when Judge Waring's body came back here, we had two hundred blacks and about twelve whites at the funeral. And a man who had done so much.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When was that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He died the fifteenth of January, 1968, and he was buried about the twentieth.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In 1968, still the white community . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, they were still angry. But the papers came out and said they weren't angry because he opened the primary; they were angry because he had married a Yankee woman after divorcing a wife of thirty years. And one magazine that I have—I just got it here the other day—said that he just sat down and said, "Annie, I want a divorce." Now I wonder if he did a thing like that. I don't believe it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Mnm-mm.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
And I bought it for a dollar from downtown. This was out here this week on the Warings. And when Mrs. Waring's body came in November, her son and his daughter and her daughter and the woman who took care of her. . . . There weren't but nine of us at that funeral. Nine persons at Mrs. Waring's funeral. And the minister from St. Michael's. He was there at this time, and he was there at Judge Waring's funeral.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It's amazing.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The hostility goes on, stays, and it passes down into the young ones, you know. But you have a group of young people now [unknown] . But, you know, that's not any different

Page 32
from black people.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you mean?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Because, with me, I was marrying a man out of the state, and it was somebody I didn't know, so all my people were against that. And there are numbers of people I met [unknown] . There was a Mrs. Genley down at Mrs. Waring's house. And her daughter had gone to school up in Maryland and met a fellow, a brown-skinned guy, down there; she was very fair. And her parents told her to get over that. They just hated it. Then we had another family up here, the Smiths, that were on Spring Street, had a big house. And that mother grieved herself to death because her son became a musician. She wanted him to be a doctor or a dentist or something like that. See, those were the jobs open, preaching, doctor, dentist. Never a lawyer, because he had no chance to. . . . They claimed the lawyer was a liar anyhow. So they never wanted anybody to be a lawyer. Those were black people who had that kind of feeling. And the Congressman Young [unknown] you know? I visited his mother's house. And she blamed the Reverend Enright, who died here this winter, from the Congregational Church. She blamed him for influencing her son to become a preacher. She never liked it because he was a preacher. And when he went to Howard to study, they cut off his allowance, and he said he took a job and worked. But he went up to the New England states there to get his master's degree in theology. And when he preached his first sermon up there, she came. And the people were so jubilant, and she changed somewhat. But I called her when he was working with Dr. King, and she said, "I can't feel happy, because I'm afraid he's going to be killed at any moment." He's still alive.

Page 33
And now when he was made a congressman I called her again, and she was happy, she and the father. They were real happy. And he preaches about them [laughter], about them and their middle-class ways.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, really? [laughter]
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He did it many times.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why didn't they want him to be a preacher? I thought that was a fairly respectable thing to do.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, but they didn't want him to be a preacher. They wanted him to be a doctor like the father. And they said that preachers always live from hand to mouth, so they didn't want him to be a preacher.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Interesting. Well, let me get back to your schooling a little bit. You started the public and then were taken out and put in a little private school taught by a black teacher who had been educated during Reconstruction in the public schools?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Mm-hm.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And then you went on to Avery Normal School.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, I went back to the public school in the fourth grade and stayed there till the sixth grade. We didn't have a high school in Charleston for black children, and in 1914 we got our first high school and it was really just a middle school, just that, the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. President Taft came down to the dedication of that school. This is Burke Industrial that we have today. And then I went there. And from the sixth grade I found out that I could take a test. I took a test and was able to go into the ninth grade at Avery, and that's what I did. I went into the ninth grade and started my high school work. Finished Avery in 1916.

Page 34
Before I finished I took a state department examination in the tenth grade, and I could teach if I wanted to from that. But my mother didn't want me to stop. She wanted me to get a high school certificate, so I went on. And Avery at that time gave something called a licentiate of instruction, which is equal to two years of college today, and I took that. I got that. And then I went over on John's Island in 1916 at the age of eighteen and started teaching.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was Avery like?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Avery was a high school that was founded by the missionary women out of Massachusetts. They came down right after the Civil War and started the school for the blacks. And for a long time we felt as if we couldn't go to it, because we didn't have any money to pay that tuition. And I told you how I paid mine. So there weren't too many people of my status going to Avery. They were mostly the doctors' daughters [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were the teachers mostly New England women when you went there?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
All the teachers were white New England women, or were there men?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
All were white until 1914, and in 1914 they got a few black people to come in. There was a Mrs. Clyde. And they were down in the sub-normal department. But in the high school, in 1914 [unknown] . But in 1916 some black women came from the north. There was a Mrs. Wing, and there was a Miss Hamilton who taught Greek and came in. So 1914 or '15 was the turning point.

Page 35
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was life like for these New England women living in Charleston, teaching at a black school?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
We had one teacher who never would attend a white church, Mrs. Tuttle, and she would take her children. . . . We had a theater downtown—we called it the Opera House—and when the Smart Set and the Black [unknown] (those were old programs that came) she would take her children and sit up on the third floor with them. This is what they had to do. But she never would go otherwise. And she went to the Congregational church that was manned by a black preacher. And so she said she stayed in Charleston all of that time and never attended a white church. She did go to a Jewish synagogue, though, [unknown] . She went there to find out about some customs that she wanted to teach us. But most of the time they never went to anything.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Because, since we were segregated against, she felt that she could not go to these places herself.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you think about the teachers? How did they treat you?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Wonderful. They came to your home, regardless of what kind of a house you had, and talked with your parents. And they wanted me to go to Fisk when I finished. They came home, and my mother was willing to do it, too, but I just couldn't see her doing it. I thought she would have washed herself to death. Because the board at that time was about nineteen dollars a month, and I don't see where she could have. . . . We couldn't get a dollar and a half a

Page 36
month; I'm sure she couldn't get nineteen dollars a month plus the clothes to go and the transportation and all. So I didn't feel as if I could go. But they wanted me to go to Fisk University, initially.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were these women teachers all unmarried? Were they all spinsters?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
All were, all that I knew. I didn't know of any one of them that was married. They were all unmarried, and they lived in the dormitory. Do you know where that Rice Business College is? Well, anyway, it's on B [unknown] Street. But there's a house right beside, and they all lived in that house together. Well, I guess there was a cook given by the American Missionary Association, and the school prepared the meals for them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It's an interesting life that they lived, isn't it?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Mm-hm. And we would visit them, too, sometimes on Saturday and the like.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you think that they were good teachers?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I thought they were excellent. I really enjoyed my schooling at Avery. It was great to me. When I was on that ABC gallery at public school, if you fell asleep they whipped you. And I never did know of any of these teachers striking at all. And it was a great thing to me to be able to . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now around World War I when they brought black teachers in, then there was a situation in which the city of Charleston forced them to fire the white teachers?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What happened in that?

Page 37
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
It seems like all of the people who had finished Avery got up in arms against it and went down to City Hall to protest it. But it had to be done.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Protest what?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The firing of the white teachers. And sending them away. They didn't want that to happen.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did the city pass an ordinance or something?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, against them coming in and staying and working with the black children. Because they still had the feeling that, you know, blacks and whites could not be together in the city.
JACQUELYN HALL:
As long as all the teachers were white and were teaching black children, they left them alone.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. Because in all the public schools, you know, we had white teachers teaching black children. And we had to go to the [unknown] bat in 1919. And we went door to door, and that was my first real political thing. In 1919 we went door to door to ask people if they wanted black teachers to teach their children. Because the lawmakers said that only the mulattoes wanted these jobs, and they didn't think that the domestic workers and the chauffeurs and the garbage people and the longshoremen wanted black teachers. So we had to do a door-to-door thing to get black teachers to teach their children. And in 1920 we got them. And we didn't get the black principals, though, till '21.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you were going door to door, were there people who did not want black teachers and who wouldn't sign the petition?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
There were some. Yes.

Page 38
JACQUELYN HALL:
On what grounds?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, they had the feeling that they didn't know. Of course, when you don't understand things, you are against it. And there were some who had the feeling that they wouldn't be worthwhile. They wouldn't get the kind of education that they felt they needed. But we did get ten thousand signatures in a day's time.
I did County Street from King to the river with some of my students. And some of them wrote on pieces of paper [unknown] to sign their names. This was all we needed, signatures.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you went to John's Island to teach then in 1916.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. I was back at Avery in 1919.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you taught at Promised Land School?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You talk quite a bit about that experience in your book, Echo in My Soul. One question that I had, though, is did you have any contact with or know anything about Penn School at that time?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Not at that time. I didn't find out about Penn School until I came back from Columbia, South Carolina. It was around 1940-something when I heard about Penn School.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I would have expected that people on the other islands would have known about Penn School, but I guess . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Communication was poor, and transportation was more so. There weren't any bridges, and you didn't go from one island to another. It was hard. We didn't get a bridge till '45 to go over to John's Island, so that was the trouble. So they just stayed right in their little shells, isolated, accepting whatever was there.

Page 39
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
There was a rickety bridge when I went over in '40-something to [unknown] , a wooden rickety bridge. And now they've got an excellent one there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you taught for two years the first time.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, '16 to '19.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Three years?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Uh-huh, I was there from '16 to '19. And then I went back from '26 to '29.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You mentioned in the book that the Superintendent came around to collect dues for the NAACP when you were living on the island?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The supervisor of the negro schools, yes, when I was on . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was that the first you had heard of the NAACP?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
First time I'd heard of NAACP at that time. And I thought it was such a wonderful organization and [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
It's interesting that there would be an NAACP on John's Island at that time.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
There wasn't.
JACQUELYN HALL:
There wasn't a chapter.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. This was a meeting. This was the Presbyterian. . . . What do you call it? But it was the Presbyterian convention. And these preachers came from out of state and were holding this meeting on John's Island. And they told about the NAACP and what it was doing. It wasn't too long since their invention had been in Springfield, Illinois, in 1909. And they were trying to get groups organized. And this woman in Atlanta—I can't think of her name, a white woman in

Page 40
Atlanta—thought it was such a horrible shame that America would let a thing like this happen.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Jesse Daniel Ames?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, it was another name. She went to that falls in New York and started getting people together to [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, you're talking about the organization of the NAACP. Mary White Obington?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's it, Mary White Obington. And so she had some people who had been working with her. They came to John's Island. In their meeting there were some Presbyterians who had been from South America, and they were working in a church in Atlanta and they came over to John's Island. And that's how I heard of it. And when I joined, [unknown] it wasn't but a dollar a year. [laughter] And so the supervisor of negro schools here, a Mrs. Lesesne, she was so enthused, and she stood outside the courthouse door, and we came out with our money, and we put this dollar in a little parasol that she had. We didn't want anybody to see us putting it in, because it was detrimental to let people know what you were doing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now what do you mean, "outside the courthouse door"?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
There's a fireproof building downtown, and she stood . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now you're talking about after you came back to Charleston?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, yes. They were still "separate and equal." No, this was when I was on the island, not after I came back, because she was dead then. She stood right at the courthouse door, and as we went up and got our checks and got them cashed, we put the money in her pocket.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see. You had to come from the island to Charleston to

Page 41
get your checks.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, to get it cashed. We had a thing that we had signed by the trustees, and we came over to Charleston to get it cashed.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see. And she would stand outside the door, and after the teachers cashed their checks. . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did a lot of the teachers put the dues in?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, quite a number of them joined, but they wouldn't say it, you know. But when this law was passed in 1956 that no city or state employee could belong to the NAACP, and Mrs. Lesesne was one of the main ones, you know, she died soon after that. I think she died before our poor child. It grieved her. She was one person who was a big member of the NAACP, and she couldn't take it. She just withered away and died.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she deny her membership in the NAACP?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She couldn't. That's why I think it worried her so.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she lose her job, or was she already retired?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She would have lost it. No, she hadn't retired.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She would have lost her job, but she died before that [unknown] ?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, she died before. She would have lost it, though. She would have went right along with us.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you came back, then, and taught at Avery from 1918 to 1919.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. Or 1919 to '20, something like that I think it was. It must have been the fall of 1919, into 1920.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And that's when, while you were teaching at Avery, you had your first organizational experience of going from door to door,

Page 42
getting petitions to have black teachers employed.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Mm-hm.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I was sort of surprised that the Board of Aldermen gave in so quickly to your request and begin hiring black teachers.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, that thing had been coming a long time, but we hadn't gotten to the place where we felt as if we could get the signatures before. And when Tom E. Miller, President of the State College, told us that we needed to get signatures, we had a black principal at Avery at that time. Mr. Cox had come from Nashville, Tennessee, and you can imagine the controversy we had about going out and doing this. It was hard for him to see it, too, but we decided that we would do it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The principal was opposed to your doing it?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. And so the older teachers wouldn't get into anything like that. But I didn't have many friends [unknown] . [laughter] And I took my students along with me, and we got these signatures. Some would be across the street, and then I'd do it on the other side, and that's how we did it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Prior to this time, had people been going to the mayor and talking to him about this and trying to negotiate and convince the . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. We had an artist here—his name was Edwin Halston—Edwin Halston was the president of the local NAACP. And he was very much disturbed with the fact that they couldn't have any black teachers teaching their children. So Edwin Halston had a meeting and I attended that meeting, and he told us what we could do. And I guess he had gotten that information from [unknown] State College. And this is what we did. We followed his advice. I'll tell you another reason

Page 43
why I think they gave a glowing example that night at that meeting. People didn't have Frigidaires [unknown] then; there were iceboxes. And there was a fellow carrying ice, and he took ice on King Street to a woman who lived upstairs over a meat market. And she lost a watch, and she thought that this boy who brought the ice up took her watch. And so she had this boy arrested. And when her clothes came back from the laundry, the watch had gone to the laundry. She was honest enough to tell it, though, and when that happened Edwin Halston got a group of people together and asked her to make restorations to this boy. Because he said that when this fellow went to school, children would be teasing him about being arrested, and he was arrested falsely. And so that became a big thing, and the newspaper carried an account of it, also. And from that we got to the place where we felt that we needed to have black teachers teaching in the schools, because that was quite an injustice. I can remember that too well.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Have you kept newspaper clippings over the years of these different things?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. I really haven't.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you met your husband in that same period, when you were at Avery.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And his name was Nerie David Clark. He was a wardroom cook in the Navy during World War I.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He was on one of those—it was the Umpqua—the ship that goes under the water; [unknown]

Page 44
JACQUELYN HALL:
A submarine?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He was on one of those.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you left in 1919 and went to McClellanville to teach?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You left Avery.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Because I got married up there in '22.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, so it was a number of years, then, after you met your husband before you married him.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Three or four years.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you in contact during that time?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, we did write some, but he went to so many places, and there wasn't much writing. He'd just come back, maybe for a day.
JACQUELYN HALL:
While you were at McClellanville, the preacher, who was also the principal of the school, asked you to marry him.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He surely did. [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
I was wondering. You said in your book that you didn't think you could be a minister's wife?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was that? What was your idea . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
My mother was so strict, and had all those strict religious ideas, and I felt that I'd be jumping into another frying pan if I went into a minister's wife. I didn't know, you know, just how I could live and please all the people, because I didn't feel as if I wanted to do all those things. And preachers' wives had to endure

Page 45
so much, you know. I didn't think that I could do it. He has children here now, Dr. Wilson at the Wilson's Rexall Pharmacy. And his wife is still living, too. But I didn't feel as if I could do it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Nerie came back, then, in 1923, and you got married in McClellanville.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And went to his home in Hickory, North Carolina. Is that where your baby was born, in Hickory?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, in Dayton, Ohio. [unknown] Yes, I didn't stay in Hickory too long at that time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did he go to Dayton, Ohio?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He had been there in his earlier years before he went into the service and had been working at a country club out there. And when he came out of the service, he went back to the country club.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was your getting married a kind of rebellion against your parents?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, very much so. [laughter] They didn't like it at all.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you want to quit teaching?
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
JACQUELYN HALL:
It seems that you and your husband came from quite different backgrounds.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, we did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was that like? Were there differences and conflicts between you because of that?

Page 46
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. I think that the life of the mountain man is so different from that of the people of the low country. Their cultural ideas are so different from the ideas of the low country, too. But I had a feeling when I went up there to live that. . . . Well, my mother-in-law was really the household. . . . Her husband was alive and made the living and she didn't work, but she was the head of the household. Everything that she said had to go. She could call these boys and say, "Now, your daddy's going to need so-and-so on Monday morning, and I expect you to do it," and they wouldn't wince, either; they had to do it. And the wives who lived in their house had to do whatever she wanted done. I had never washed out in the yard in the snow before, and she did it all the time. And my features got so frostbitten. Oh, I had a hard time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were some of the cultural differences between your husband's family and your own family, between the mountains and the low country?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, they didn't have the same cultural ideas. They didn't feel that everything was taboo like my mother felt, like, you know, playing with children that she didn't know or being a washerwoman was not considered out of class [unknown] . Nearly all of the women around Hickory where I was were either household servants or washerwomen, and I don't remember any who just were protected and taken care of but one, a doctor's wife (and she was teaching) by their husbands. Everybody seemingly had to work. And you know, down here in Charleston, there were women who never felt as if they should work.

Page 47
JACQUELYN HALL:
That was a real important index of class, right? If the woman worked or not.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In your book, you contrast the strict religious ideas of your parents with the healthier attitude toward life of your in-laws.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was the difference in their religious attitudes?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
My in-laws were all members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. And I felt that I'd better join, too, and be with them or else I would not be considered too high with them. But to be a Christian down here, there were so many different rules you adhered to. You hide so many things. Handicapped children were hidden. Girls who had babies were tabooed. And in the mountains they were all together. They didn't have this kind of thing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What church were your parents a member of?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The United Methodist Church, the same one I am a member of today. But in North Carolina they were African Methodists, and they did not like at all the United Methodist Church.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why is that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The African Methodist, I think, had put its influence in their community. And when the United Methodists came in, they didn't feel as if they could be a part of [unknown] . Because they had white bishops, and when they had their conferences the whites had charge, but in the African Methodist they were all blacks. And that was the big difference.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And did you like that better?

Page 48
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I can't say I liked it better, but I went along with it for the privilege of being acknowledged and really accepted by my in-laws.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you have stayed in the United Methodist Church all these years?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, I had a letter to go to the African Methodist when I was up there living with them, and then when I came back I applied another letter to come back here, is what I did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You had a child then which died.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Mm-hm. Here.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were back in Charleston?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, it was in Charleston then. That was the first one.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you felt that the death of your baby was a punishment for having disobeyed?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, that's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you really feel that way?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I did, for having married a man out of the state, a person I didn't know that was from another state. And I went down on that Battery one day and sat down, and I was so sure I was going to try to commit suicide.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Really?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
But she sent a brother of mine on a bicycle to see where I was. I was there on the pier. He got rid of my attention. I really had that feeling. And I thought it was against the will of God, according to the religious laws that I learned of it, and I felt very strongly about that.

Page 49
JACQUELYN HALL:
And yet you had done it.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. I had gone. That's why I felt the punishment had come.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Even when this happened, when your first baby died, your mother didn't forgive you or take you back in or help you?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. She was strict like that. Very strict.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about your father?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He was different. He spoke nicely to us both. And my husband was afraid. He came down from the ship and found out that this baby had died, and then he went back on the ship and never came back. He never came back here at that time. And left me to find a way to bury him. And I know he was afraid of my mother. So all of those things made me feel very bad about it. He knew what she was going to say to him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Amazing. How did you get over that hard time in your life?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I took a job. There was an invalid woman here, a white woman, and she wanted somebody to go with her to the mountains, Hendersonville, North Carolina. I went with her to Hendersonville, North Carolina, and stayed with her that whole summer. And her helplessness helped me to feel a different way. Then her son got married and had a baby, and they brought it up to the mountains. And they asked me would I do the diapers, and I couldn't. It made me think too much of my own child. I just sat and cried. And she was real sorry for me, too. And very soon after that I left and went to Hickory, North Carolina, to my husband's people. I hadn't seen them before. But that was a real hard time. Because night after night I could sit and think about [unknown] . And I had

Page 50
to pray to get over it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How are your religious beliefs or your stance toward religion different from what you were taught as you grew up?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
As I started getting experiences in various places, my religious ideas changed. When I went to Dayton, Ohio, common-law living is great up there. A common-law wife has great chances in a court. And there was a woman across the street who became very friendly with me and helped me with my baby, because I took sick there for a while right after I came out of the hospital. I had a fever, and I couldn't nurse this boy. And she would come over and get the clothes and things and do them. And she was living in a common-law life, and I just wondered how she could do it. And while staying there I went to our church; there was a Baptist church right across the street from me. And who died and wrote all those things? Hayes. No, not Hayes another fellow. He wrote a number of poetry, and he died young. But his parents were there, and his house was in Dayton, Ohio.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Not Langston Hughes.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, it wasn't Langston. But he worked as an elevator [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
But it was one of that generation of. . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. So I went to that church and the Methodist ones and to some others, and I heard about his life. And just experiences of people like that, plus the lady who was living in common-law, made me see that there are people in the world who have different ideas and they can live [unknown] . And I started looking for the differences. I never wanted to do those things myself, though. I

Page 51
always felt as if I could not do common-law living. But I had a lot of respect for people who did it. And right to this very day I don't like the idea of common-law living. The kids nowadays call it shacking up. And I really hate it. But the various experiences. Then I met a young woman in California, Lee Griffith, and she went into Mexico to live. And she wrote about the Mexicans and numbers of things that they did, how they would take a wife for the night and then another one for the next night, and they were next to each other, and she said they lived happily just like that. And I met a Mr. Baumenthal, from Nigeria—he was on the West Coast at that time—and he talked about it to me. He said, "Now don't think that those women liked the idea." He said, "Sometimes they'd poison each other's children or try to poison the water." And then he became . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
He was talking about the practice of polygamy.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
. . . Christianized. He got away from it. But I found out that there were so many different ways. And I went to the United Nations workshop in 1957 in San Francisco. And a man talked about thirty-six different kinds of religion in Asia at that time. Everybody had their different ways of serving God. And all of those things made me feel, you know, there isn't any one [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see. But you lived in Hickory for a while.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Mm-hm.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you were homesick for Charleston and came back, taught again on John's Island for three years and then went to Columbia to teach.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.

Page 52
JACQUELYN HALL:
In 1929?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Mm-hm. At the last of 1929 I started. It was the '29-'30 year. I went to Columbia for the first time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And in Columbia you got much more involved in civic activities and so on there.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You mentioned going to your first interracial meetings?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, at Benedict College.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you join the Commission on Interracial Cooperation? Was there a group in Columbia?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know anything about that organization?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It was based in Atlanta. Will Alexander was head of it.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, I didn't. I went to Benedict College to hear this guy who's dead now, came. He used to teach social studies at Atlanta University.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Ira Reid.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's it. Ira De A. Reid. I heard him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But that was the only contact you had, really.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. I didn't join their organizations. But there was an interracial group in Columbia headed by a doctor. He was concerned about the numbers of women who had to go to the hospital for a third child, and they were living out of wedlock with these children. And when they went to the hospital they would clean them out. And he had a group of people together, both blacks and whites, who got together

Page 53
and started talking about that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
This was a white doctor?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
A white doctor. I can't think of his name.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, now, there was a local group of the Interracial Commission in Columbia in the twenties and thirties. Modjeska Simkins was in that. But you didn't ever . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. I don't remember being a part of that, but I do know that I attended the meetings of Ira Reid and I just can't remember that doctor's name, and the meetings were held at Benedict College, and he talked about what was happening at Columbia Hospital.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were they able to do anything about that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I think so. I understand that they were able to get a lot of it done, but it took a long time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, that's still going on now.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. [laughter] Cleaned them out.
[Interruption]
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
You were asking me about . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
The NAACP in Columbia.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, I joined that. And there was a Dr. Robert Mance who was president. And he was the one who started the equalization of teachers' salaries, and so we worked for that from [unknown] '35; I think it was '36 before we got it finished.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The NAACP sponsored a suit which they won . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
. . . and that decision was made by Judge Waring, right?

Page 54
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
For the equalization of teachers' salaries?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Uh-huh.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He, I think, concurred in it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. I know Thurgood Marshall was down. And I was able to get some affidavits from both white and black teachers about salaries and show the discrepancies.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were white teachers willing to sign affidavits?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Some of them were. And that's the only way we could get it, because some of them let us have copies of their checks, xerox copies.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What else did the Columbia NAACP do?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Other than that equalization of teachers' salaries? That was the biggest thing that I can remember, getting that. We had the National Teachers' Examination that was thrown at us at that same time, but we were glad to take it. I was, because it meant more money for me. A lot of teachers rebelled against it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And wouldn't take the certification.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Wouldn't take it at first. But they had to take it later on.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How many people were in the Columbia NAACP chapter? How many active members did it have?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
My goodness, there must have been around eight hundred or more. It was a big chapter.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, really?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. Because we met at Benedict College.
JACQUELYN HALL:
White and black members?

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SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Unh-uh. I never did know of any white members.
JACQUELYN HALL:
No white members? What were some other things that you were involved in in Columbia?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Other than the teachers' salaries? The biggest thing I did in Columbia was to go to school and get my bachelor's degree. Because we had double sessions. You know, segregation caused us to have double sessions. And I taught from twelve o'clock in the day till five in the afternoon. And in the mornings I could take two or three classes at one college, because I was in a college town, and at night I could take two or three more. And this was how I was able to take my degree, taking six hours, and finally finished in '42.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And got your B.A. from Benedict College. And then you went right on and got an M.A. from Hampton in 1946.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. I stayed out a year. The summer of '42 I went to Maine and worked.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Doing what?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Waiting tables in a camp, Camp Green Shadows in Harrison, Maine.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did you do that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The salary was so little, and I had a child to support, too. My husband was dead. Then that was the time that I wanted to buy a house for my parents, and so I went up there and worked for the summer. And it cleared my money that I made in the winter. In Columbia I made $62.50 a month and I had to pay board out of that. And then when the State went broke around. . . . When Roosevelt came in the State went broke, and I got $31.25. And so I went to Maine

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for three or four summers so that my winter money could be clear.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And your son was being taken care of . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
By his grandmother.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you feel about that? Did that seem like a . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
A real heartache. [laughter] For me for some time. I do know that she would take care of him. I tried taking him with me on the islands for a while, but it was too hard living. Rainy weather and cold weather. It was just very, very hard. He'd get to be tired over nothing, and so I experienced it for one year, and he got right sick. Well, he had the whooping cough. And then I decided that it would be better if his grandmother took him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see. What kind of relationship have you had with your son over the years?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, very good.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He didn't seem like a bit of a stranger to you from having grown . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. [laughter] The only thing I can see, he's called me by my name all the time. He never said "Mama"; he said "Septima." This is something I dislike, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You don't like that.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I didn't, because I wanted him to say "Mama." But now the things that I miss in him I get with this one.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right. I noticed that your grandkids call you "Mom."
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Have you taken care of them a lot of their life?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
most of their lives.

Page 57
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why is that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, not with this one, but the bigger ones, their mother died early. She died and was buried on her twenty-eighth birthday, and there were four little ones left. And so I took care of those kids. I was making the most money then, and their grandma kept them while I worked and then I'd go back and forth. And in the summertime I took them with me to workshops and around. Little boys. The girl stayed here with my sister most of the time. Sometime I'd take her when I'd go to Atlanta. And this little one here, he took sick, and so that's one reason why I took him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did you never marry again?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I never felt as if another man would take the other man's child, and I didn't want him shunted aside by anybody. And there was so much of that, and I just felt so badly. I remember I had a friend one time [unknown] was with me in Columbia, South Carolina. And he was behind me scraping his shoes on the sidewalk like children do, and this young man said, "Just go ahead and scrape them up." He said, "Your mama got plenty of money." I was teaching [unknown] . And I got real mad at that man, and I never talked to him any more. [laughter] I didn't want him telling me that about my son.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you ever want to marry again?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, I never had the feeling that I wanted to.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You never fell in love with anyone [unknown] ?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, I've had lots of good friends, but I'm sure that I never fell in love with them. Perhaps I would have gotten married to them, but I didn't. I had a very good friend in New York City,

Page 58
and I went to a dance with him and he didn't want anybody else to dance with me. And I said, "Well, now, that's not the man for you, if you're going to be like that." Didn't want anybody putting his arms around his girl, he said. Men are so funny. [laughter] But I guess when you really love one you don't mind those things; you go along with them. But I just felt as if I never could take a lot of foolishness off a man.
JACQUELYN HALL:
A lot of what?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Foolishness. Like I heard someone saying they went home and their lights were out—they didn't pay the light bill; their water was gone—they didn't pay the water bill. And I just wouldn't put up with that, because I've been doing it for so long for myself.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I wonder, if you had married again, whether you would have been able to do the things that you've done in your life.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I doubt it. I don't think I would have been able very much. I'm very sure that a man wouldn't put up with it. See, the way I had to go, sometimes I made three cities in a day, working for the SCLC and Highlander Folk School. Maybe I'd speak in Seattle this morning, and I'll hop a plane and I'd get to Calgary, and I'll hop another plane and I'd go to Alberta. A man wouldn't hardly put [unknown] up with that. I didn't get back here but just around Christmas, maybe I'd have one or two days. I was gone all the time. And at Highlander Christmas was the time when they had a kind of Christmas workshop for college students who wanted to come, so you didn't get to leave.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You had taught adults to read on the Island . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
. . . but in Columbia you learned a technique of adult literacy training from Miss Will Lou Gray?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Surely did. Which was, I felt, much better. On the islands I did whatever they wanted done. If they wanted to make a speech, or if they wanted to read the Bible, or if they wanted to read a newspaper, we worked with that. But when this Will Lou Gray started her work, she had pictures of the State House, and then we'd make stories. They put them on the. . . . So we really had a way of doing that was different.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I was interested that Miss Gray is one of the people that you acknowledged in the front of your book. Did you see her as having a big influence on you?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I did. Very much so.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In what sense?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, in working with the people who could not read and write, and having enough patience, you know, to work with them. And I can remember her, although we had segregation, I think when she came over to the place where we were, I think she had just as much of a good feeling about the blacks as she did about the whites, but they were segregated.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You came back to Charleston, then, in 1947?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Mainly to buy this house and to take care of your mother?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, my mother was sick then. She had had a stroke. It didn't paralyze her, but it was in her neck and throat. But somehow or other she was able to get up and go. And it ruined her heart, too.

Page 60
JACQUELYN HALL:
You became involved then in the YWCA, which you had been involved in before.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You mentioned in your book that you wrote after this controversy in which you asked Mrs. Waring to speak, and was that to the whole YWCA, black and white?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
To the annual meeting, which included both the black branch and the central one. No?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, no, only the black branch.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, it was the annual meeting of the black YWCA.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see. But it was the central, white Y who tried to keep you from having the speaker.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. They hated her. They didn't want her to speak.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, how do you account for the fact that. . . . Evidently there were some white women in the Y who had been supportive of your efforts or of the black branch, and were trying to get black representatives on the central board?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. There were some.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And they were afraid that this speech would keep that from happening?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's what she said.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you account for the fact that right afterwards you were elected to the central board? [laughter] After all this controversy.

Page 61
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
We had a meeting with the mayor, Mayor Wade, and while meeting with the mayor, he decided that he couldn't see the black woman. So there were two women, Mrs. John Brown Coleman and Mrs. Mary Louise Boyd—she'd been with me on Mrs. Davis [unknown] —and when he saw me coming he pulled a chair [unknown] and when I came he sat down and turned his back. And they felt terrible about it. Oh, they just colored. And I didn't say a word, but I took a-hold of a chair and sat down behind him around the table. And I said to myself, "Whatever I have to say'll penetrate his back." And sure enough, when we started talking I did get a chance to speak. And I said to him that "The only reason why these boys are difficult around here is because the city has no place for boys to go. And so if you would provide a place for the boys, you wouldn't have this difficulty with the girls. But I think now you can put a policeman on this porch every day when the girls come, and when the boys come up and see the policeman they'll shy away. And in the long run I think you need to get a branch started of the YMCA for the boys." He thought about that. He turned right around to that telephone and called the police station to find out if they could put a policeman on the place. And he said, "What time is this?" and I told him what time the girls would be coming. The boys used to [unknown] the girls. And then they had [unknown] the little woman there was afraid. They'd come in to use the telephone, and she was afraid to tell them they couldn't come in. So it wasn't too long after that that he sent to New York to find a man to come and work with the boys and they got a little club, and they called it the Boys' Club. And they had meetings there. And later

Page 62
on we got the YMCA built [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Your election to the YWCA board was the first time that there were even black representatives on the over-all governing body.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did the YWCA have any interracial meetings in this period in the forties?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
They would have some interracial meetings. There were some people who would come and discuss the interracial aspects. And in the national part, a Committee for the Interracial Relationships of the Y was being established at that time. And that's when they started trying to get clerks and things to work in the stores. The Jewish women couldn't work in the stores.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In Charleston?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
In Charleston. And we went to Mr. Kerriston and Condon's and other places to see if they would let the Jewish women work, and I went along with these same two women
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you also asking to let the black women work as clerks in stores?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And when was this?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
1948, I think it was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And this was an effort of the YWCA?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, it was. So we did have some women, Mary Louise Boyd, John Brown Coleman, Mrs. Davis. We had a woman from Texas here also. I can't think of her name now. She came as the Executive Director for both of the Y's.

Page 63
JACQUELYN HALL:
It seems to me that that was probably the only organization in town where black and white women worked together at all. Is that the case?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Worked together?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Mm-hm, in the YWCA? Was there any other contacts or interracial effort between white and black women?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
This was the only one. No, I must change that. Somebody asked me to become the chairman of a health committee for the public health people on that center there. And we started deliberations. That was a little bit before. It must have been '47, before the YWCA. And we did get them working together.
JACQUELYN HALL:
On the tuberculosis campaign?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Venereal diseases. And we had clinics over the city of Charleston. And then a little later on we had the children on the islands who needed immunization for diphtheria. They got that. That was a little bit before.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'm fascinated by the history of the Warings. There's a collection at the University of Marion Wright's papers.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He was our speaker. When we gave the testimonial for Judge Waring, Marion Wright was our speaker.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In his papers I came across one of her speeches that she gave, I believe to the national YWCA, but it may have been the same speech that she gave here. And it was a very hard . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She got angry with me when I said that she was vitriolic. She didn't like it. But it was true, [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of person was she?

Page 64
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Like my mother. Very high-strung. And very angry over things.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, what was her background? Why was she so concerned about the situation of blacks in Charleston? She came from a very wealthy family herself.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
To be unmercifully truthful, I don't really feel that Mrs. Waring had that much knowledge of the life of the blacks [unknown]. But being in love with Judge Waring, and Judge Waring saying to her his feelings going into the courtroom and working with Cottonhead Smith as his campaign manager, I think that's the thing that imparted to her the fact that I would like to change things.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you think it was Judge Waring's influence on her.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's what I think.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And perhaps her defensive response to the kind of attacks that were leveled at him.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, that's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
For example, this incident in which she had Collier's magazine come in to take pictures and have an integrated dinner, it seems a kind of symbolic and defiant thing to do, just to make the Charleston aristocracy squirm.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. She was good at that. She got on the bus one day and looked up there and saw something about the [unknown] kneeling down, the [unknown] or the [unknown] or something kneeling down praying when you know they don't mean it and she said, " [unknown] ." And she had the bus to stop and got off. [laughter] She was good at things like that.

Page 65
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you think about her, really?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, a woman from Columbia called me and said, "Is Mrs. Waring using you?" I said, "No, she isn't using me, because she says to me in front that ‘I want you to do thus and so’, that ‘I want you to come here for this man who's coming Sunday.’ So I feel that I would have to say of my own will and of my own accord that I wanted to do it." And I wanted to do it because I felt that most of the people, as we say, below Broad Street, were so smug in their ways of doing, and I don't think that they didn't know what they were doing. I think they knew, but it hadn't come to the surface, and I felt that it was good to get it to the surface to where somebody could work with it, to bring it out. This was my feeling. So I never felt that she was using me. I think I went along because I wanted to. I wanted the fellow that came here, Holmes, and other people who lived down on that Battery to realize that there were some people who understood what they were doing. She didn't [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you know why Judge Waring divorced his wife and married her?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The only thing I have to go on is that story "Why?" It says that he did say, though, at one of the meetings that, you know, she didn't go along with any of his integration patterns, and he didn't see how he could live with the woman after he had changed.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
So I think that was his big trouble. I think that must have been the same way with Rockefeller with Happy. His first wife didn't feel as if she could go along with his ideas of government [unknown] . And Judge Waring said that he went to bed thinking about what had been

Page 66
done. He said, "I saw white men come into that courtroom, and I knew that they were bums and they were considered gentlemen. And I saw well-dressed black men with good character, and they were all considered bums. And I didn't feel as if I could do it." He said, "You know, a judge has to live with his conscience." That's what he said when he was talking that night when Marion Wright was here. And I feel that that was the thing that triggered his way of doing. And his daughter sided with him, but his son didn't. His daughter Ann, she was here. I met her once or twice, met her in New York and met her here, too. And she felt that he was right, but the mother had those traditional ideas, seventeenth-century living in the twentieth century world. You know about his scholarship, don't you? He's given a scholarship to the College of Charleston, and it's for a black boy. A black boy is [unknown] each year. They give it to him for four years, and he must live in the dormitory. This is the way he [unknown] with his . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Interesting. This was in his will?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. And his daughter came down to get that thing settled here. And this was the thing that he wanted to happen.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Interesting. Well, let me ask you a little bit about your firing by the school board in 1956. Before this happened, besides your controversial dinner at the YWCA where Mrs. Waring spoke, you had also brought Myles Horton and his wife Zilphia Sylvia down for a parent-teacher workshop.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there a lot of response in the newspaper about that?

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[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
JACQUELYN HALL:
The principal was fired for letting you have . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Mm-hm, [unknown] for letting us have that meeting in that public school. [unknown] And Myles and Zilphia Sylvia were there. And the thing that we were talking about was getting a credit union started. Because integration was coming, and the banks felt as if they could not let teachers have money. And teachers who had done three or four years on a master's degree would have to start all over if they didn't get money to go that summer. And so in the fall of the year before, we started working on the credit union so that they could borrow money from the credit union.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And why was it that the banks wouldn't loan money to teachers?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Integration was coming, and they didn't understand integration. They thought it was going to take over everything in the community, and they would not allow teachers who were working on a master's degree—and there [unknown] a hundred and four [unknown] money this time to go back and finish up on their master's degrees.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you get the credit union started? Were you able to?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. I'm one of the ones. There was a guy at Highlander that I brought down first, and he met with a small group of people. And then we planned this big meeting, and we had Myles and Zilphia Sylvia. Then we had to meet with the regional man from Atlanta and with the state man from Columbia. And we drew up a proposal, and we said that it was going to be for all the people. And they wanted us to say just

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for black teachers, and we wouldn't have it. We wanted it for the black workers. We wanted the secretaries and all to be able to draw, and any teacher to come. South Carolina Teachers' Credit Union was the one we. . . . And it took us quite some time, so many months meeting, before we could get them to accept it. They wanted us to have it just for black teachers, and we wouldn't have it that way. Finally it went through, and teachers were able to get money [unknown] . And they came back under their own terms about it, and that next year we didn't have to send around to the schools. The teachers just started putting in [unknown] and joining the credit union, because it was a success. And now we've got two of them. We have the South Carolina Teachers' Credit Union, and we have the Charleston County [unknown] Committee Credit Union. That's the meeting I went to yesterday. I wish you had been there yesterday to see that church full of people and hear those folk. [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'm really . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
[unknown] As I look at them shouting, I said, "Now, all of their frustrations come out in those songs." And they'd make up most of their new songs. It's like "Come right here, my daughter, come right here." And [sings]. They make up their own songs. They have good voices, too, and they sing these songs. And I said, "When they sing it, it's coming from their hearts." And they are very, well, just steeped in that, and that's good to me. We had a quite a group yesterday, quite a church full. And they were singing [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is this the church that you went to when you were on John's Island teaching?

Page 69
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. There's another one down in the section. This one was about five miles from where I taught. But you know, what we did, we went over the island. Like they'd have church this Sunday at a church here, then you'd go to another church; sometime you'll row across the creek to another church. That's the way I did. I went all around when I was over there. So all the people knew me. [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Your job simply wasn't renewed for the fall of 1956.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you were given no explanation.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. I sent them a registered return letter to ask them why. And the only thing they said to me was that when the law was enacted, no principal, no superintendent, no president of a college had to tell you why; your services are just not needed. That's what they said.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did anyone else lose their job at the same time for the same reason?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, yes. There were eleven here from Charleston and thirty-one from Clarendon County in South Carolina. We had a three-judge court trial, and at that three-judge court trial Greenberg represented the teachers—Greenberg from New York, with the NAACP—and the state had three lawyers. I can't think of those men's names, but one of them said, "Judge, all of these people have moved." He said, "They're not moved; they're sitting up there in the flesh." But he went on to say that "We don't know all of the facts, and we'll dismiss this court for another month, and then the lawyers can bring us in new briefs." And he just said that. The next day the legislature was called in, and they changed the wording from "No city or state employee could be

Page 70
a member of the NAACP", saying "List your affiliations." And the very next year one of the teachers listed her affiliations, and she was dismissed, but she didn't push her case.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, I didn't understand from the book that a case was brought.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The NAACP brought the case in behalf of eleven teachers from Charleston and . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Thirty-one from Clarendon County.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And when did it finally come to court?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
October, '56, that same year.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And what was the resolution of the case?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Court was dismissed so that the lawyers could bring in new briefs [unknown] the judge came. And so then they changed the law. And the law was repealed in '57.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were the lawyers trying to get the teachers reinstated and to get the back pay and so on?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But the case was just thrown out after the law was repealed?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. We never heard any more; we never went back in. And I filled out a questionnaire for Thurgood Marshall, who was at the place up in New York, the national office, and evidently it caught dust; I never heard any more from him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The NAACP just dropped the case, is that what happened?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Evidently. I never heard any more from them. I sat beside Roy Wilkins on June the sixth of this year. He was being honored, and I was the special guest, and I stood up and told that story and he

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never said a word.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, how did you feel about that? I mean that seems very irresponsible to me, that they would take the case that far and then just not ever . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
They never did come back, you know. And he has had letters from groups here. There's a group that wanted to come in here today that sent him a letter about my case and wondered [unknown] , you know. But when I was at Highlander, Myles Horton said that I never was going to hear from them, and he was right. He knew.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Myles Horton and Dr. Brazeal both, he said, "You're never going to hear [unknown] ."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He said, "You're just filling out this questionnaire. It's a waste of your time." He said, "It's just going up there and catch dust." They had had so much contact with the law; they knew how they would do. They knew that this judge was just stalling when he said that, and so the NAACP did likewise. And later on they said that the local branch did nothing, the state branch did nothing, and so they could do nothing; their hands were tied.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that the truth?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I don't think so. We've still got a local branch and a state branch now.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But did you get help from the state and local branch? Did they try to help you with the case?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Not as I know of. No. The man who was in charge of the

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state [NAACP] at that time—he's dead now—Mr. Hinton, they were integrating a golf course across here, and he said when they got through with the golf course they were going to take up the teachers' case, and they never did get to it. And the same thing with the NEA. We had a local branch, and I was a member of the National Education Association and went to Columbia, and they claimed that the national said that they didn't have any push from the local, nor from the state, and so their hands were tied. That's the way they said it. But you know that's not true. Now that's just what they said.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, in this recent settlement that the legislature has given you, is there any mention of the other teachers that also lost their jobs?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Not a word. There's not one word in there, not about any of these eleven. The representative who came to me went to one of the other teachers—Henry Hutchinson is at the [unknown] Center now—but I haven't heard a word from him. Not one word. He hasn't said one thing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, how did this recent settlement come about? Had you been actively petitioning the legislature?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
From time to time, yes. About five years ago I met Cliburn, and he was working with Governor West, and I talked with him and he talked to Governor West, and Governor West thought he could have something done, but the legislature refused. And since coming home, being here for a while, with people's keep asking me about my pension. I don't have any. So this is the way it has worked. Then I had really gotten in touch with a number of people in the governing body like

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Senator Alan Carter and Senator. . . . Well, I met Davis and talked with Davis and Fritz Hollins quite a bit. I did see Strom Thurmond. I had a chance in 1968 to go to Washington for American Friends Service Committee. And I was the only black on their team with them. And they gave me the southeastern regional district to interview representatives and senators, and I had nine states. And that's when I met a lot of these men. But you know, I was surprised; the man from Mississippi was most cordial. I had four questions to ask him about the war in Vietnam and what they could do about it, and did they think that they should terminate it. And one fellow from Tennessee said that they had been talking and writing to President Johnson about it. President Johnson appeared before that body that night, and we had a chance to listen to him. And you know, that Sunday night—we stayed there ten days working—and that Sunday night he decided that he didn't want a third term. So I felt that the American Friends Service Committee had put a good bit of pressure. But he said that his daughter said, "Daddy, why does Robb have to go"—her husband, you know—"go to war?" And so that made him think that he didn't want to be a part of it any longer.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you lost your job, then, that's when you went to Highlander.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I'd been there two summers before. That was a part of my downfall, too, you know. But I taught as first director of workshops one summer, and then before that I worked as . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
'54 and '55.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. And director of teaching.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you decide, though, to go to Highlander as a fulltime director of workshops?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
After this job terminated, Myles Horton said, "Oh, I'm so happy, because we need somebody [laughter] to come up here and work." And I thought about that country and those mountains there and those people in the mountains, and I didn't know how I was going to stay up there, especially in their winter. And was that a tough winter! But I did go.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Alice Spearman asked you also to come to work for the South Carolina Council on Human Relations?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, she did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had you known her and worked with her before?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, I had.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In what way?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
With the Human Relations Council. And I had helped her in workshops at Penn Center and some up in Columbia and some in other places.
[Interruption]
JACQUELYN HALL:
You said that Myles thought that you could be more useful at Highlander than with the South Carolina Council? Why is that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I had two or three offers. I was at Myles' place working that summer when John Potts at Denmark said that I would be good, but I would not be able to go out and make any speeches and I would have to be careful how I talked about integration. Well, I said, that's not the place for me. And I went down to see him, and when I went to see him, he told me to come at a certain time, and when I went there he was gone somewheres else, and [unknown] be associated

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with him [unknown] . Then Mrs. Spearman wanted me to work with her, and right about that time Harvey Gant was being introduced to a group at the workshop, and he wanted to get into Clemson. And a white minister from up there came down and introduced him at that workshop and brought him. And when that white minister went back, they dismissed him; they wouldn't have him. And Courtney Siseloff, who's now head of the Commission on Civil Rights, he came here and was afraid because they had allowed this man to come in. And he wanted to talk to me about the man's statement, and I told him I wouldn't because it's a public place run by the Quakers, and the head people at Alexandria and other places didn't mind, and I didn't think that I should make any statement that would let the people know anything that he didn't know about it, so I wouldn't do it. Just like I wouldn't answer that letter. There was a man here with the USO wanted me to write a letter to say that I didn't want Mrs. Waring to speak. I said, "I couldn't say that." So that's the way I didn't get to work with Mrs. Spearman, because. . . . She wasn't afraid, however, not at all. Because she and I went down to see a black man in Fort Motte, and a man had a gun. He took out his gun, and we didn't know whether he was going to shoot or not, but . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now why were you going to Fort Motte?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
We had a fellow working, Hoot Williams, in one of our registration workshops, and he went back home to carry some people to register, and he took seventeen of them to register. And the white man said to him, "Hoot, what are you doing here?" And he said,

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"Nothing. Just we came up here to register to vote." But he felt that maybe something would turn up that night, so he called Mrs. Spearman and told her. And she was afraid that they might try to lynch him that night, and so she went down to see about it. And she went [unknown] , and he said no, the candidates were hungry for votes; he didn't think anything would happen.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What does that mean, that "candidates were hungry for votes"?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Since they wanted votes, they would want black votes as well as other votes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did this incident take place?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
It was around 1957 or '58.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you do any other work with Mrs. Spearman?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
[unknown] through here I went into a number of the small communities, getting people to feel as if they could register to vote.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Working with the South Carolina Council?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. I was just doing volunteer work with her. I wasn't paid. I was a member of the Council, but I was really being paid by Highlander Folk School. And in between I could go into little places like Yemassee and other places and talk to people about the registration and voting. I don't think I mentioned the South Carolina Council on Human Relations. I think I just talked to them off the cuff about registering and voting [unknown] need to . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why would you not mention the South Carolina Council?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Because at that time this whole state was riled up about integration. And they didn't want for any registration to come about,

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especially with black people. And if they had heard that the Council was doing it, they would have tried to perhaps put the Council out of business.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was the Council much more cautious in its activities, say, than you had to be as . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Not with Mrs. Spearman. I didn't find her at all cautious, not too much so. But knowing the people as I did, I felt that when you had to mention an organization that was trying to help people, I think you'd have to be very cautious not to say that they were doing it, but to say that you were doing it on your own.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see. So you went to Highlander then, first as Director of Workshops and then as Director of Education?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And were there until the State of Tennessee closed the school down in 1960?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And while you were at Highlander, though, you kept returning to South Carolina.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Back and forth [unknown] on these islands and in many places, all around Columbia, Edgefield, getting the Highlander idea over to people.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And working with Esau Jenkins to set up the citizenship schools.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, that's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did it come about that, after Highlander was closed down, you started to work for SCLC?

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SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
We saw it coming. We were in court, and Myles was over at Monaco, and when they arrested me Myles knew that next thing was they were going to close down the school, because we were working against the laws of the State of Tennessee; they still had the segregation [unknown] . So he had talked with Dr. King, and Dr. King said he would love to have that program. And so as soon as they had the word and they put the padlock on the door, they started sending me down to Atlanta, not to stay but to start working with Wyatt T. Walker, who was assistant to Dr. King at the time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Walker was the Executive Director, wasn't he, and King was President.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. And so that's the way we did it, and so Dr. King said he would like to have me come.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your position in SCLC, exactly? What were you called?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Director of [unknown] , but it is Director of Teaching. I taught in the workshops.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you worked out of Liberty, Georgia?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, Liberty County, Georgia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And what was Andy Young's position?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
[unknown] . He was an assistant to Dr. King. And I don't know if he had a title for us in the workshop. Dorothy Cotton was there; Dorothy Cotton and I travelled together, getting the people to come to the workshops.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The workshops were actually held in Liberty County.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
Not in the local communities.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Later on. We held some in a little place in Mississippi. We held a week-long workshop at Waverly, Mississippi, and we had some in a place in Georgia—Jacksonville, Georgia—and stayed down there a whole week. And Jackson, Tennessee. But our center was really Liberty County, Georgia. That's where we brought the bulk of the people. When we couldn't get the people out of these special places, then we held a workshop in that little place.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was the purpose and strategy behind the adult literacy or the citizenship training workshops for SCLC?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
To [unknown] them to read and write so that they could register and vote. Because, see, all of these states had these stringent registration laws. They had to write their name in cursive writing here in Charleston and read a section of the election laws. In Georgia they had thirty questions they had to read and give answers to. In Alabama they had twenty-four questions they had to read and give the answers to. In Mississippi they had twenty-four questions. And in Louisiana there were thirty questions that they had to read and answer. Now eastern Texas did not have that; in eastern Texas they had to pay poll tax, and we had to work with them to get them not to pay the poll tax. And they had to do that each year. So we had these differences all around. And in each state we had to do different things.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was Ella Baker still at the SCLC office when you came there?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, she had gone. She was with Smith.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know her?

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SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Real well. I knew her before. I met her in Tennessee. She's been to Highlander quite a bit. She had her ribs broken there, going around those mountains one night. She had two or three ribs broken. The car jammed into a mountainside. Some mountaineers were following this car taking her to the plane.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She had organized something called the Citizenship Crusade with SCLC and had been involved in voter registration.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was the difference in the kind of work that she did with SCLC and the kind of work that you did?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I don't really feel that it would have been a big difference. Mine, though, had to do with teaching people to read and write first. And I think she was trying to get over to them to become first-class citizens without reading and writing. And her way of thinking and her philosophy was altogether different from mine. She still has that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Because she was concerned about not being recognized in a man-made world, and it didn't bother me. It really didn't. I remember Reverend Abernathy saying a number of times, "Why [unknown] on the board? Why does she have to be on the board?" And Dr. King said, "Because she worked out the citizenship education program, and anybody who did that should be a member of this board." But he didn't like the idea.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
A woman. And this is a man-made world we've been living in all these years. We're just coming to the forefront.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
That's right.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
And so that was Reverend Abernathy's way of thinking and feeling.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, how did Ella Baker get along in SCLC with . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Not at all, because she felt that the men wanted all the glory. And she was going to be working behind the scenes, and she wanted her just deserts, which would have been right, you know. But they weren't about to give it to her, and so she decided that she couldn't take it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you came there, did you know about all the things that had gone on behind the scenes that had really caused her to leave?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She told me herself.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did she say?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She was just telling me about the things that she had done and that they wouldn't give her credit for. And when they wrote up the articles, they never mentioned her.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you find the working situation when you got to SCLC, as a woman?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The same things. Uh-huh, I found out that they didn't respect women too much. I went into a small community down here, [unknown] , and we were getting affiliates started. And I don't know where Dr. King was, but I presented the certificates to the people who had joined. And he asked his secretary about it. And I wrote a letter thanking them for their help [unknown] , and I showed it to her. And Dr. King, he, too, wanted to know about me as a woman. So I had a copy of the letter, and I showed him that I said

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in the name of Dr. King, I'm presenting these certificates and so forth. And the little secretary was just fine, and I wonder why that she said he'd given her the devil for not letting him be the person to present these certificates. I said, "Well, of all the [unknown] ." [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Isn't that interesting.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
If you'll read the last part of my, you will see that he never felt that women should have much of anything. Even with his wife. They never rode. . . . Well, I can see that. He said he didn't want them to ride on the same plane, because if the plane would go down he wanted one parent left. But working with women, he never felt. . . . And I felt that. . . . This was my feeling. When we went over to Europe, I paid my own way. I wanted to go with the man who had done so much. But I thought that they should have really offered Rosa Parks her transportation and everything over there, but you know, they didn't.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she go?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, she didn't. She couldn't. She didn't have any money. She was trying to make it up there in Detroit then. They didn't help her too much down in Montgomery. And Carl Radin wrote an article about that, saying that every woman should have given her address to me, and that would have kept her going. But they didn't.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She couldn't make a living in Montgomery after?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. Nobody would hire her, nor her husband. He was a barber, and he used to go around on Sunday mornings and cut hair and shave, and he had to stop it. They wouldn't have it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And SCLC didn't help her?

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SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. When she got ready to leave Montgomery, they collected $382.00, I think, something like that. That wasn't the thing; I thought they should have put her down for a certain amount each year until she could find something to do. Highlander, through an organization in New York, was able to give her fifty dollars a month for about a year or more. And we wanted her to go through some parts of Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana and speak for Highlander, but she didn't feel as if she could do it. She felt that they were too wrong, you know, that the hostility was so great. She didn't think that she could do that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there any other women on the SCLC staff when you went there?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Mm-hm, quite a number. Dorothy Cotton was one.
JACQUELYN HALL:
J.H: What was her position?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She was director of something. I don't know [unknown] . But anyway, she led the singing a whole lot in the workshops. And that's the only thing they mentioned about her in any of their writeups. If you noticed that picture, "From Montgomery to Memphis," they don't mention one woman going through there, not one.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Are you talking about the film?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Uh-huh. Not one woman was mentioned.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They don't mention Ella Baker or you?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, not any of us. No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were some of the other ways that this feeling. . . . How did you get this sense that the men in SCLC, Dr. King and Abernathy and

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the other men, didn't value women's work or want to work with them on a basis of equality? How was that manifested?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
[laughter] Well, I felt that usually, when they had executive meetings, if we had anything to say, maybe we could get to say it at the end of the session, but we never were able to put ourselves on the agenda to speak to the group.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you try?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I did. I wanted to tell them about. . . . Well, I sent him two or three letters, and the last letter—I wish he'd listened to me—I not only spoke to him, but I spoke to one or two of the other persons around [unknown] , and I told them about him going, being the head of everything. I just felt that he had disciples in Memphis and in some parts of Georgia, Albany, and those people could go and lead a march. He didn't have to lead them all. And so he read the letter to the executive group, and there was a secretary sitting there, two other women, and I had spoken to them, too. But not a one of them said one word. And a young man who was in our office, but not a one of them supported me in that at all.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did you feel that way? Did you think that King was dominating the movement too much, and that other people should take a leadership position in their own areas?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I didn't think that he really wanted to do the domination, in a way, but I felt that they had gotten to the place where they felt that everything had to be done by him rather than some of the other [unknown] . And I had a feeling that if you're going to develop other people. . . . This is what I feel as I work in a

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community. I don't think that in a community I need to go down to the city hall and talk; I think I train the people in that community to do their own talking. This is what I would do. But he couldn't see it. I would not have ever been able to work in Mississippi and Alabama and all those places if I had done all the talking. And when I worked with those young people who came down, the college students, I would say to them, "Don't go and cash the check for this woman. Let her do it; you can go with her, give her that much courage. But make her cash her check and do her own talking so that she can have the feeling that she can confront [unknown] . She's been trading at the A & P all this time; let her take her check to the A & P store." This is my feeling. And I think I learned that great lesson while working with teachers, when I felt that they should have said that "We are members of the NAACP, and we're not going to lie about it." They didn't do it. Seven hundred and twenty-six letters; twenty-six answered; eleven went to see the superintendent. So I had the feeling that you make them do their own talking; otherwise, if you don't, it's just too bad. You want it, but they don't. And I saw the same thing with Stokely Carmichael. He went into a community with his thinking up high, and theirs was still down low, and so he couldn't get anything done. You can't get it done unless you get the people sensitized to the fact of what you would like to see happen. This is my feeling.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you tried to get on the agenda of the executive committee to talk about this problem and . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Didn't get any support. No. I couldn't get it done.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did they keep you from being on the agenda?

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SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Just didn't put it on. I wrote the letter, and then no mention was made. Dr. King made mention one time of a letter that I sent to him, and he was really laughing about it, and nobody answered. And nobody would say anything.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you think that other people were in agreement with you, but they just wouldn't speak out?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, I think they were, but they wouldn't speak. I think it's just like the legislators today when the governor says that you are unjustified. I think they knew it a long time ago, but they were not going to speak out. And that's the way I think it was with them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why wouldn't they speak out?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
They're afraid.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were they afraid of, though, within SCLC?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Of losing their jobs. You can't go over that bossman; you have to listen. You have to sit and listen and not speak. Just [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
And that was true within SCLC.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That was true in every organization I've been in.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about Highlander?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
In a way. I'd say what I wanted to tell Myles Horton, though, regardless. Myles couldn't listen to people. When we had people coming from the deep South? And they're going to go all around Robin's barn, like that fellow preaching yesterday.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right. Exactly.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
To tell him, and he didn't have patience to listen to that;

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he'd want you to get to the point right now.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right, right.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
And so I told him, I said, "You will never be able to organize in that [unknown] if you can't sit down and listen to that man tell you the night that their calf was born, such-and-such a thing. [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Uh-huh, that's right. What did he say?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He just [unknown] , but it was true.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[laughter] That's right. When we started talking about this, you said that your philosophy was altogether different from Ella Baker's? How is it different?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, it's different because Ella Baker sees things and gets very angry about them, and I see things and I want to work on them, but without the hostility. I see the same things that she saw, but I'm not going to be hostile. I'm not going to get mad with a man because he said I shouldn't be on the. . . . I just sit up there and listen to what he has to say, and then when I get a chance I let him know that I have made a contribution and that I can make a contribution. They're calling me now. I wasn't going to this workshop, and still I wanted to go and stay for his workshop. And I had a feeling that, working as hard as I did to get as many things as I did for SCLC, that they should have offered me something to come. So now they're offering me a ticket, and I'm glad that they are. But I wouldn't tell them. I wouldn't say it to them. I think it should come out of their own [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
But did anyone within SCLC ever raise the issue of the way women were treated in the organization?

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SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I don't think any of those workers ever raised that question about women talking out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did the women talk among themselves about it?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, they did; that's the thing. It was behind the doors, you know. They would say this, that, and the other. I don't know whether Miss Baker ever said anything to them. I don't think she did, because she said it to me. And I guess she said it to others. I don't know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It's interesting that at the same time you were trying to teach other people how to organize in their own behalf and speak out, and this was true in all the civil rights organizations, I think, as women began to be aware of their own situation, they were aware of it but they couldn't act on it. Why was that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I remember on John's Island, we worked on John's Island for three years, and all the women would do would be serving the tables. And one Sunday a woman said, "Mr. Esau, yes, we want such-and-such a thing," talking about typing classes for the children. And he said, "Just sit down there and say nothing [unknown] just [unknown] . And she said, "Yes, we want a typing class, and we want a typing teacher, too!" And I put that down as a benchmark [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Really?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
This [unknown] woman stand up and say something. They didn't speak. They sat down there. They thought these things, but they swallowed them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were there, it seems to me, in the citizenship training schools, as a teacher and as a strong person and speaking out. Why

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didn't your presence there enable the other women to take a larger role?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I'm pretty sure that most of them felt. . . . Well, [unknown] they call me an activist, don't they? And a number of the women would say that [unknown] "Who minds Septima with her newfangled notions?" And I think that's what most of them [unknown] feel. We have notions, and they're newfangled notions. That's what they call it. And it's too new for them. It's too new.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you account for the attitude of the SCLC leadership toward women?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, I think most of it is due to the fact that with our men, most of them had been trained by either mothers or grandmothers
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
letting people know your thoughts. Even when I went to Hampton Institute, there was a young woman there from Florida who wrote a beautiful dissertation. And then when she got up in the classroom, she said, "You know, I didn't tell them people what I'm thinking. I wouldn't let them know what I'm thinking, but I put down something that they would like to hear."
JACQUELYN HALL:
In her dissertation.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. And this was the kind of thing that we had all the time. People would say what they'd think you'd want to hear. They'd say, "We make them laugh. We tease them. We put down what they want to

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hear. But we won't tell them what we're thinking."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now is this black women toward black men?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
As well as blacks toward whites.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's right. Oh, they never let the men know what you feel or how you think. We had a workshop down at Fayette County, and those women that night [unknown] that bedroom, and they just talked about how they could fool their husbands about theirfeelings, you know. Wouldn't let them [unknown] know how they were thinking [unknown] . [unknown] see the way they do.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you see all this changing, the relationship between men and women?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Very much so. That's why we're having [laughter] so many divorces, I guess. Men aren't accustomed to women standing up and talking to them, and it's hard for them to take it. And they still want to be [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about the role of women in the civil rights movement on the local level? How much leadership were women able to exert locally?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Very little at first. But as the civil rights went into its tenth year or so, women started speaking out. But in the beginning they were listeners only.
JACQUELYN HALL:
We have an interview with Ella Baker, and she talks about in the Montgomery bus boycott, for example, that women were very important in keeping up the spirit of the boycott and doing the nitty-gritty work. But they never took . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
[unknown] . I had a meeting with Mrs. West down there in Montgomery and Mrs. Campbell, and they just

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called me about a lady just now; Mrs. Harrison just lost her husband down there. I worked with and talked with all of them. They did many things to help in the civil rights movement, but you'll never see it put down anywhere in any of the reports. In the reports you can only get Dr. Say [unknown] and Dr. Pierce of Alabama State College, some of those people who worked there. I don't know why it is, but they don't give the women any of the glory at all. It's just starting to come now. Then this woman wrote Women [unknown] . But I think Josephine Carson is so right in her Silent Woman. They think these things, but they won't speak them; won't say them out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Ella Baker had an interesting idea, I thought, about the fact that all the SCLC leadership were preachers, Baptist preachers for the most part.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
[unknown] Mostly, yes, nearly all of them. Except Don Juliano, and he's a Congregationalist. Different.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She thought that the way that they acted toward women was patterned after the role that women have played in the Baptist Church, that women in the church are the backbone of the church but they do what the minister tells them to do and really are deferential toward the minister. And that they just expected . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
[unknown] her father was a preacher, and so she knows that to be true.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Her father was a Baptist preacher?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, her father was, in North Carolina down in the eastern section. I lived in that section one time. It's near where Kittrell College is. What kind of "ham" is that, Effingham? Anyway, she was

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from that section. And we had quite a number of workshops there. We stayed there a whole week. And she's right about that. Baptist preachers, they had all the rights. And I heard Mrs. King saying that as she was growing up in Marion, Alabama, she felt as if, "I'll never marry a preacher, especially a Baptist preacher." And then she fell in love with a Baptist preacher. And her role was stifled—you know that—until her husband died.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'm sure.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
And now she's just coming onto the platform and onto the campus now. She never had any . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
I notice that you seem to play a very strong role in Old Bethel Church, but I don't see any other women on the boards and in important positions.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
And can stand up and talk to their preacher [unknown] and let him know how I feel. If I think he's too far on black power, I just get right up and say it to him. But most of those women sit right back and think these things—they're angry about it—but they won't tell it to him. And you have to tell him. [unknown] tell him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When the women's issue first began to be raised and the women's movement began, how did you respond to that? Were you sympathetic to the women's movement from its beginnings?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Very much so. And I was in a workshop—it was the Democratic women—and you know, numbers of those women said they didn't want the women to have rights because it would take away from the man and [unknown] open the car doors. They had a lot of little

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silly things to say. Just wondered about them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When was this?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's just been about two years ago [laughter]; in was here in Charleston.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, here that the Women's Democratic Committee in Charleston?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Said they would stop opening the doors for you, the car doors and the like, and so many things they wouldn't do. And so I said, "I'm [unknown] . This is something. They're not talking about that. I'm talking about when a woman is in a bank and can do the same work as a man does, she should be getting that same pay." Because we have a woman there [unknown] , a Mrs. Columby, but they will never put them on the executive board. Just had a feeling that man must have all of the glory.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Within SNCC was the first time that I know of, within the civil rights movement, that the women's issue was raised. A memo was circulated about the position of women in SNCC, and that was when Stokely Carmichael supposedly made his famous statement that the position of women in SNCC was prone, should be on their backs. Do you remember that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
[laughter] Yes, I remember Stokely so well.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[laughter]
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
And when he came to Highlander. He was real funny. And when he went into Downs County, Alabama. And then I met him in Washington. But he was in Atlanta, too. And when he was in Atlanta, I wanted him to come to see me. He did come when I promised to give

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him dinner that day. He brought about six boys with him, anyway. They went over to [unknown] place, and we talked. And when I would ask him, I'd say, "Now, Stokely, don't you think you could train them to do something better than take these sticks and knock them out the windows of the merchants?" he just laughed. He thought it was funny. But since that time, he's changed in the way he handled those things.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you work with SNCC at all when you were in SCLC?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Only to speak to them at times when we were in Atlanta. And then when I was down in Selma, Alabama, some women came over to tell me that Stokely Carmichael was really overstepping his bounds, and she was afraid that all of them would be killed. And I went over there to speak to that whole group. Then another time in Oxford, Mississippi, I worked with a group of SNCC people. Five of them had been sleeping in a bus station, but they wanted Mississippi towns not to [unknown] them up, so, and we went down there to the trial and I talked to them at that time. We had to live forty-six miles away; the black people in that town wouldn't keep us [unknown] . Anyway, one of the boys who was on that trial stayed at a lady's house—it's in Mississippi near the Memphis section—and he wouldn't do that to save his life. [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
What do you mean?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He was on trial, and we got him a place to live while we went back and forth to this courthouse. And this lady had some other man living there. You know, he took that man's shoes and shirts and pants. And when we went in our station wagon and turned up the

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[unknown]work. That climate was just. . . . [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Ella Baker, was she more sympathetic toward the SNCC than you were?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, I know she was. I felt that they were young people who didn't get the facts and just went right off the top of their hats. Now that's not all of them, because I felt that Julian Bond was different. He was a SNCC guy. When he came by Highlander. . . . Who was the man he worked with? I can't think of his name now. Thought he was different because he worked with me some in Haywood County, Tennessee. They always wanted things done quickly, though. You know, they don't have time to wait. And of course Stokely Carmichael. And when I went into Washington—I went to a workshop there—the kids at Highlander didn't want Stokely on that thing. That was just two years ago. And Stokely got up and said, "I see Mrs. Clark in the audience, and I want to tell you that she tried hard to get me to turn around. I have changed now." He said, "When I went over to England and I met Nkrumah, he gave me a book to read, ‘because you say you want the facts.’ And then after I read that book he gave me another one, and then another one. He gave me three books, and he said, ‘Now do you still want to fight, now that you have learned all of this’" And he said that he had changed his mind. He felt that he could do a [unknown] . But he was going around then trying to organize the colored peoples of the world. He talked about Dr. King. He thought Dr. King was too soft. And that's why I was inviting him to lunch. I wanted to see if we could sit down and work out. . . . But people do this all the time, because I've got a lot of people [unknown] . And someone said to me yesterday,

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"Get a lawyer. You don't know what you're going to do if those legislators. . . . [unknown] You can push it." I said, "I'm going to settle this thing amicably, without hostility, and I think I can do it." And I've had notice of it, both whites and blacks who feel as if they want me to push through the law.
[Interruption]
I feel that the boys were a little bit too radical. I think we [unknown] needed just such people, but I think we needed to try to find out more about the facts. I think they need to listen to us, and we need to listen to them. That's the way I feel about SNCC.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there a lot of hostility within SCLC toward the SNCC students?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Quite a bit. Not Dr. King, though. We had some kind of a fund that came in, and it was for the SNCC boys, because, you know, SNCC was organized out of the SCLC. And Dr. King felt that they could have some workshops and settle down to working in the various towns. Okay. They wanted all their money at once. They knew about the grant, and they wanted to [unknown] everything at once. So they argued with him. And lots of the men didn't want to give it over. But Dr. King said, "Let them have it. It was gotten for them. Let them have it, and let them do whatever they want to do with it." Sure enough, some of them went to Mexico; they went all around. And of course it wasn't too long before they didn't have any money. And they had to come back to us to ask us to give them some more money. And I think it was in Savannah; we did give them some more money to

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work [unknown] . But if it hadn't been for Dr. King, they wouldn't have had [unknown] , because those other men felt that they were going to do what they did and just run through it. They'd just spend things just for spending it, without sitting down to see how the money's going.
JACQUELYN HALL:
There was criticism leveled at SCLC, I think, too, for living fairly well while working for people that were very poor. Did you have any feelings about that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I think they must have been thinking about. . . . I did a letter to a social worker. I don't know if I have it here [unknown] . I was sort of angry, too, about some of the workers. You will find people like that. They chartered a plane because they missed their regular plane. They chartered a plane to come to Liberty County to the workshop and spent so much money for that. And I had people coming in from Mississippi that they didn't send them money to eat on the way. And we were supposed to send them two dollars per meal, six dollars a day for eating, and they didn't send these people. And there they came, all the way from Mississippi to Liberty County, Georgia, starving. And I was really angry with this [unknown] about that. And I talked to them in no uncertain terms. I said, "Here you are. You can charter a plane [unknown] and sit in an airport in Savannah and eat a good dinner and then ride out here in a rented car. And you wouldn't send this man six dollars, and he didn't have anything coming to this workshop, and you want him to go back in there and work." So one woman told me that. . . . [laughter] She was a social worker. She said, "Social workers never had that kind of feeling that you had. They always feel as if the people that

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they were working with were beneath them." I said, "Well, that's your big trouble [unknown] . You should have the feeling that they are human beings, and that they need your help. And after all, you're not spending your money; you're spending the money [unknown] from taxpayers or of the foundation people who gave us this money." There was a bit of that going on in . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who were these people that chartered a plane? What was their position?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
They were coming over to the workshop to help in the workshop.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But whose money were they using to do this?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The grant, money from the grant. The Marshall Field Foundation gave us $250,000.
JACQUELYN HALL:
For the citizenship schools.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, for citizenship schools. And we had to bring the people from eastern Texas and from all the way up the northern part of Virginia into Liberty County, Georgia, to work, to study for a week. And we had to pay the board while they were there, and they had recreation while they were there. We wanted them to [unknown] . And they put out a certain amount of money to give them to travel, and that's what they did. Well, now, we sent a woman who was coming on a bus from—not on a chartered bus but on another bus—from [unknown] , Alabama, we sent her four hundred and some dollars, and when she got that money she had never seen that much money before. And she took that money and paid most of her debts. And she didn't pay one way on the bus for the people that she was bringing us, and she had fifteen. [laughter] I don't know what she did; she spent the

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rest. She told us about it after the people got there and said that they had nothing to eat while coming. I said, "Why, we sent you money to eat on." That woman didn't give them a thing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Amazing.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
So we have that, [unknown] you have to work with people [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Tell me a bit about the civil rights movement in Charleston itself. Were there demonstrations and so on in Charleston during the early sixties?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. In '63 the NAACP spent about $10,000 for two months one summer getting young people to march three times a day. And they used the church to meet in. And they would march and sing, and they picketed the stores at [unknown] Station. They wanted jobs; that was the big thing. They wanted them to get jobs in the supermarkets; they wanted cashiers. They wanted jobs in the five-and-ten-cents stores. And they were successful. But that's what they did. But the NAACP took care of that. And the hospital strike. The woman in the hospital strike said that she was interested in working with her patients, but she wanted more respect from the white people in the hospital, and this was why they were striking. Because lots of the white people felt that they were underdogs, and they wanted them to know that they. [unknown]
JACQUELYN HALL:
When was the hospital strike?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
'59.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did SCLC work in Charleston?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, yes. They sent in a whole group [unknown] . And they

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worked with the hospitals. They met over at the. . . . There was a union hall over on East Lake Street—it isn't there now; it's down—and they met there, and they had workshops and lectures, and then they'd march to the hospitals and pray. And the director, Mr. McCord, who is gone now, decided that he couldn't meet with the black workers, and a white woman, Mrs. Childs, was working up in Washington. And she asked did we know who had appropriated money for the building. They were building the hospital then. And she wanted to know who had appropriated the money. And so she sent us the name of the man on that appropriations committee for that dental building. They had asked for fourteen million, and they had used four million. And when HEW put in the paper that they would hold ten million dollars from them, then Mr. McCord decided that he would sit down and talk with them. I had been to many meetings in which [unknown] Catholic bishop had called them in, and he felt that they needed to sit down and have some meetings. And then after that he got some meetings, and it wasn't too long before the strike was ended.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Just a couple of other random questions. Back to the role of the women in the civil rights movement? It does seem like there are quite a few women, local women, that were important, like Daisy Bates in Arkansas, Fanny Lou Hamer in Mississippi, and women like Victoria DeLee in Columbia. Are there other women like that that you remember and see as really important people locally that haven't gotten recognition?
[Interruption]
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Just now, wanted to do some building on one of the schools?

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And he wants to know if I approve of the amount of money that they want to spend to fix this school. [laughter] You know, that's something new.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes. [laughter]
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I said, "Well, you have a maintenance man who is really expert, and we discussed it in a meeting, so I rely upon Mr. Clark's expertise." So he said, "Do I put you in the ‘Yes’ column?" and I said, "Yes." [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
[laughter] That's great. This is the superintendent of schools or the chairman of the school board?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, the superintendent is away and the chairman, but this is the lawyer for the school board, Mr. [unknown] , the staff man.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I was asking you about black women on the local level that did speak out and get into leadership positions in the civil rights movement.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I know of Daisy Bates, Fanny Lou Hamer, Mrs. Pagese of Mississippi.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where was she?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Clarksdale, Mississippi. I can't remember her first name, but she was very good. Well, Ella Baker was [unknown] and very good. Anna Lionel Hedgeman; she worked in Mississippi down at that college there now, Clarke State [Clarke Memorial College?]. I just met one the other day, a Mrs. Wright of Jackson, Mississippi. She was very good, too. And who's the other woman that I know that's outstanding?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know Vera Hopkins in North Carolina? I mean. . . .

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SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I know a Mrs. Koontz in [unknown] ; saw her the other day [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
I've forgotten this woman's name. Koontz.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She's with [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
But for the most part, you really saw women as important but working behind the scenes?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, they were most of the time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you account for yourself being so different from that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
[laughter] I just wonder sometimes, you know, really [unknown] . I always say that I stand on the platform that was built by both my mother and my father. My mother with her courageous philosophy, and my father with his non-violent philosophy. I think I have some of both in me.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Still, it's amazing the way people's lives develop.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Isn't it, though? Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I wondered, being here in Charleston and seeing the little signs of recognition that you have begun to get and the little signs of change, how do you feel about that? I mean now you're on the school board, and the Charleston papers write articles about you and so on. Isn't that a big change from the attitude that used to be taken?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Sure. People were so afraid of me before.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you feel about that willingness now of people to claim you?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The other day when I was down in Florida, I said, "I'm very happy, for the National Education Association has publicized the contributions that I have made. And the publicity of the

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contributions has opened the eyes of many people, both black and white, not only blacks." So much so. Now my preacher talked about me one Sunday. He was talking about things going different with God, and he mentioned my name. And then, too, receiving these letters, and I've been on television now. The week before last I had five interviews one day, and another day there were three or four, something like that. There are so many people now. A woman was in here from Spain. She was over on John's Island working with the migrants, and she happened to read about me in the newspaper and she wanted to come see me and she did. She'a a nun, and along with her came two nuns from Maryland and one from Mississippi and one from Tarrytown, New York. They came it was either Saturday or Friday; Friday a week ago. And I said, "Well, sir, this thing is really going around." Then I met a man from Seattle, Washington, last Wednesday when I was in Columbia, and he heard about it up there. I had been up there; I was at Lewis and Clark College [in Oregon] and spoke to students there one night. But I didn't know. The AP has taken this picture all around, and the story along with it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So this interest in your life is very recent?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Just very recent. Coming in from this award, because when I worked at Highlander, well, you know I was a "communist," and everybody was very much afraid of me. Some white woman here in the store asked another woman about me and said, "How in the world should she get a. . . ." The same time Nixon was being stoned with tomatoes and eggs in South America, they had my picture in the paper for being arrested in

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Tennessee. I was teaching in an integrated situation, but they put down therefore selling liquor. And a year after that they found out that that was untrue and then they put another story in, but a lot of people will just remember that. Anyway, this interest has just come over these years now. They just felt that if she keeps [unknown] people, there must be something to it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of support did you get from your church and church members down through the years?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
They were too afraid. When I was dismissed from school and my sorority gave that testimonial for me, all of my church women were afraid to do anything about it. And I was on their trustee board and working with the missionary group, but not one of them would come and say a word. They sent a little girl [laughter] out of the youth group, and she read a little paper and she could hardly read it. And that was the same time I gave them [unknown] hundred dollars to paint the front of the church.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where has your sustenance and support come from?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Now?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Over the years when so many people were afraid and even opposed to you?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, working at Highlander Folk School. When I worked at Highlander Folk School I received a pretty good salary, about four thousand or five thousand dollars. It wasn't what I was making here.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I mean more psychological and moral support.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, then at Highlander I was able to meet Southern whites who were of one accord about the interrelationships, and northern whites

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who felt that we should work more to get freedom and get rid of injustice. Then there were some southern blacks who came up and had their eyes opened at that time, and there were northern blacks, too, who came and had their eyes opened to things that were happening. I never will forget a little girl that came from Washington into Montgomery, Alabama, and we had a tour. And she didn't [unknown] that blacks lived in houses that had indoor toilets. You know, all the things that she'd heard were different, and she was so surprised that we had these things.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you feel about the lack of support, though, that you've gotten from the Charleston black community during those times when you really could have used it?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Just here recently I have received letters from various organizations, congratulatory notes and messages, and I belong to about six or eight black organizations, and not one of them has said a word.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Really?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. Only the church. And one or two [unknown] in my church. But the organizations as a rule, they haven't come up and said . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why is that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, I just think they haven't learned to do it yet. Not yet. They haven't learned to come up and think well of the things that you have contributed, [unknown] .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why do you think that is, though?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I think it's come out of slavery. Three hundred years of teaching, you don't get rid of it right now. It's going to take another three hundred years before they will realize that they can

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think that a black man needs praise of any kind.
Very few. Sure. They haven't learned to give, and they haven't learned [unknown] . The American Friends Service Committee sent me into Pasadena, and I spoke at a number of colleges right in that area, Whittier and other places around. And I met a millionaire woman there, in fact stayed at her house. And she is a great friend of mine, even to this day. She never forgets a birthday, and she'll send me a check with it, a birthday card. I keep writing to her, too. And Christmas and Easter, she's always. . . . Mother's Day she'll send me. But I haven't met one black person who has that kind of [unknown] . I mustn't say that; I met one black woman who was a member of the Amalgamated Garment union, and she was one of the officers in that union, while I was at Highlander. She came down that summer to a workshop, and she brought me some dresses. She thought I looked pretty tacky around there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[laughter]
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
But they didn't fail to tell me. You know, most of our people like to be real dressy. So I went to receive an award in New York, and on my way goign to this place, an organization, a woman came out of Chicago, and she was doing something with hats. And they wanted me to have one of those hats to wear, a thirty-five-dollar hat. And I never felt I could put that much money in a hat. I'd say I'd rather put it in milk and put it in the baby's stomach. Anyway, they bought that hat and gave it to me, and then they wanted me to have a dress to go with that hat before I went to New York.

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They didn't want me to go out in the mountains. [laughter] When I went up there I had to tell those people about it. And I said, "Yes, sir, these folks are really anxious for me to look good coming to New York. [unknown] mountains.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's funny.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
[laughter] And I never will forget the. . . . I went to meet Mrs. King at a meeting one Sunday in Chattanooga, and a lady told me that she'd like for me to be in the receiving line, coming from the mountains there, from Monteagle. She traveled twelve miles that night up to where I was living on top of that. . . . What kind of rock is that? No, it isn't Blowing Rock; another rock. But anyway, she traveled up that mountain to see what kind of dress I was going to wear that Sunday afternoon. She wanted to see it. I had a black dress [unknown] . I guess she said, "She looks so tacky around that. . . ." We didn't bother about dressing at Highlander [laughter], and I never did bother too much about dressing. [unknown] the only thing I [unknown] . So she wanted to see what I can wear to stand in line with Mrs. King. [laughter] I've had some very interesting experiences. Went down into Bradenton, Florida, and that lady didn't know that Highlander had a black woman coming, you know, for fundraising. And so I got off the bus at the station and got a taxi to go to her house, and I had her address. And the taxi man said, "Lady, there are no black people down there in that part." "No negroes," he said. And I said, "They don't?" I said, "But you just take me there." He stopped that taxi another time, and he said,

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"Usually no black people don't go over there." And I said, "But you just take me there," so he took me. And when I got to the door, this lady said, "Oh, I didn't know Highlander had a black woman coming around. Anyway," she said, "come in." And she pulled her shades down to the door; didn't want anybody else to see. And the taxi went on. So she said, "We're going to have to pray over this." A good woman, but just afraid. She said, "You know, they could tar and feather me." That's what she said. I said, "Well! Really?" So she gave me something, and she asked me to pray. And I prayed that the Lord would not hold her responsible, because I [unknown] . I hoped that she would be forgiven. So, anyway, we sat down and ate supper. And I knew an undertaker there, so I went to his house that night and spent the night. We didn't have the meeting. [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
You didn't have the fundraising meeting?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. [unknown] she was afraid, though, what would happen.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Amazing.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
But the next night I went to Tallahassee, and the preacher's wife was sick, and that was that. And he thought I was a white woman coming, and he said, "Tell that lady to look across the street, and she will find a motel over there, and just go in," and I knew that I couldn't go in that motel— [unknown] segregation—so I asked the red cap at that bus station, and he told me where I could spend the night. [unknown] It was a very bare room, but it was a warm place, you know, [unknown] . And I went in there, and I said, "Well, last night it was a white lady,

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and this time it's black." Then that man got nervous about it, and he called that hotel during the night to find out about me, and he found out that I had gone. And he was real [unknown] . So I called a taxi the next morning and went to his house. And he was so apologetic [unknown] . But his wife was nervous about it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
About having a black woman stay there. Isn't that something.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I could understand it. But I'm very happy that I could change as I'd see situations. If I hadn't, I would never have been able to make a success. And that's what I think is the difference in me and Ella Baker. She would have been very angry with that preacher and his wife and the drive to raise the money. But I could understand what they were going up against, because the whites around Highlander were calling me all during the nights and saying all kinds of things. And I would just say, "Thank you; call again." That's what they did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, I'll let you
END OF INTERVIEW