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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 >>

Clark develops more tolerant religious views in her adult life

Clark's religious views changed throughout her adult life, making her more tolerant of different lifestyles and beliefs even if she considered them wrong. In particular, she learned to accept those with common-law marriages.

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

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.
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. And I started looking for the differences. I never wanted to do those things myself, though. I 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.