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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 25, 1976. Interview G-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Marraige and social affiliation crucial to Charleston community

Family expectations mattered greatly in Charleston culture. The community held grudges about Judge Waring's remarriage even after his death, and parents feared letting their children marry a darker-skinned person or work with Dr. King because of the risk of alienation from the community.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 25, 1976. Interview G-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

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. But, you know, that's not any different 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. 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 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. 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.