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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 >>

Successful campaign to start credit unions in Charleston for black workers

Septima Clark, along with Myles and Zilphia Horton, helped start a credit union to fund black workers after existing credit unions stopped serving black teachers. Credit unions feared that integration would disrupt employment and make them default on loans.

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:
The principal was fired for letting you have . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Mm-hm,for letting us have that meeting in that public school. 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 therea hundred and four 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 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. 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 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 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]