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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 >>

NAACP drops lawsuit on behalf of black teachers fired for their membership

The NAACP did not pursue the case of members who were fired from their teaching jobs. Clark suspects that the organization did not consider teachers' jobs a priority.

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:
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 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 briefsthe 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 And the law was repealed in '57.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 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, 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."
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 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.