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Title: Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 30, 1976. Interview G-0017. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Clark, Septima Poinsette, interviewee
Interview conducted by Walker, Eugene
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: 140 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 sound recording: Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 30, 1976. Interview G-0017. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0017)
Author: Eugene Walker
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 30, 1976. Interview G-0017. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0017)
Author: Septima Poinsette Clark
Description: 157 Mb
Description: 40 p.
Note: Interview conducted on July 30, 1976, by Eugene Walker; recorded in Atlanta, Georgia.
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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Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 30, 1976.
Interview G-0017. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Clark, Septima Poinsette, interviewee


Interview Participants

    SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK, interviewee
    EUGENE WALKER, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
EUGENE WALKER:
I should like to begin by asking Ms. Clark if she would please state her name and her present residence.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
My name is Septima P. Clark, and I live in Charleston, South Carolina. I started working at the Highlander Folk School in 1954, and we had a court case in 1959. I was arrested, and padlocks were put on the doors at Highlander Folk School. And Dr. King said that he would like to have the program that we started at Highlander come to Atlanta. So I was sent to Atlanta to carry out the citizenship education program, a program designed to eliminate illiteracy and get people ready to register and vote. When Dr. King took it over, we worked at a center in Liberty County, Georgia, a center that was owned by the American Missionary Association. And there we brought people from eastern Texas all the way up to northern Virginia . . .
EUGENE WALKER:
May I interrupt and ask you two questions.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Surely.
EUGENE WALKER:
I'm trying to follow it chronologically. Number one: Do you have any idea about the source of financing Dr. King had in mind when he requested that the program be bought from Monteagle under the auspices of SCLC?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
At that time the Marshall Field Foundation had given to the Highlander Folk School $250,000 to carry out the Citizenship Education Program. Since the Highlander Folk School was closed, the money had to be transferred to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
EUGENE WALKER:
Did the Highlander Folk School make any conditions upon transferring this money, or the agent which had granted this money,

Page 2
to the best of your knowledge?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
It said that I was to be hired in the program; it gave my salary when I was transferred to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. (I was to receive $6,000 a year.) [unknown] [omission]
EUGENE WALKER:
Would you continue telling me about the conditions, if any, were made on the grant that went from the Highlander to SCLC to start this citizenship education program?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
At the time that I went to SCLC, Andy Young had come down from New York from the United Church Group to work at Highlander. Since Highlander was going to be closed, then Andy Young was also placed in the program. And I really don't know; I think he received $9,000, but I can't exactly say that that's . . .
EUGENE WALKER:
Can you recall when Andy first came to Highlander and what led to his coming there?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The summer of 1959 Andy came down to help with the Citizenship Education Program. We were taking it around to various communities, and they wanted his help at that time. So he came down that summer and worked in some of the workshops along with me.
EUGENE WALKER:
He was recruited by Myles . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Myles Horton. Myles Horton heard of him in New York and recruited him and brought him in. Dorothy Cotton also came up to that workshop, and while there, with her singing, it was felt that we needed Dorothy Cotton in the Citizenship Education Program, also. So in transferring the program from Highlander to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dorothy Cotton and Andy Young were

Page 3
placed in that grant along with me, Septima Clark.
EUGENE WALKER:
So Andy then came to SCLC by way of the Highlander Folk School.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's true.
EUGENE WALKER:
Now one other question in regard to this. Was there any requirement or stipulation on the original grant that Highlander got, or suggestion, that they would have to bring Andy in? Was that one of the conditions under which the grant was made, the bringing of Andy?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, no. The grant was made before Andy came down. The grant was made about June of that year, and we were supposed to receive half of it in January and the next half in June.
EUGENE WALKER:
So when you first went over to SCLC, you were already set up down in south Georgia. Who was it at SCLC [who] worked directly with you in this program?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Directly working with me was Wyatt T. Walker, working for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was really doing all of the business part of it, seeing about the grant, setting up the salary, getting the contracts signed, and getting the center. He learned about the center from Myles Horton, and Myles learned of it through the United Church through Andy Young. And with that in mind, we went down to see about the center, and was able to open that center and start. We didn't bring people to the center the very first month. We travelled a month through one or two states—Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
EUGENE WALKER:
What kind of people were you looking for?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
We were looking for those who could read well aloud and who could write legibly to come and be trained and go back into

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their communities and work with the illiterate. We didn't need anyone with a high school education, nor did we need anyone with a college education. We just wanted to have a community person, so that the illiterates would feel comfortable and happy with . . .
EUGENE WALKER:
Did you encounter difficulty recruiting individuals to be trained to go back to their community and teach?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
We did encounter difficulty, because under the name of Highlander, there were too many people in the South who were afraid of Highlander Folk School. It was really a school for problems, but it was designated as a communist outfit, and so that gave us a good bit of trouble in the communities. And until we could go around and have some lectures and explain to the people what we were doing, we couldn't get them at first.
EUGENE WALKER:
Why did Highlander have this communist designation?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Because blacks and whites were able to live together and to work together at Highlander, the people of the South had a feeling—in fact, that came out in the McCarthy era—that if blacks and whites mixed, they're bound to have been communists. I had a wonderful experience in the Atlanta airport. A white woman came over to me and was talking about coming from Lake Junaluska. She was really one of the Methodist women that I knew. And another white woman was sitting to the end of the seat didn't know what we were talking about. As soon as this white woman left to go on her plane, she came over to me and said, "What is she talking to you about? Is she telling you about communism?" And I said, "Oh, no. We're church sisters, and we were talking about our churches."

Page 5
EUGENE WALKER:
Very [unknown] . So when you all went out and recruited people to bring them in, to go back into their various communities, was there any particular section of Georgia or the South you concentrated in?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The first part of Georgia that we worked through was Savannah, Georgia, and we worked with Savannah because Hosea Williams was there trying to get people to register to vote and didn't know that he had to teach them to read and write so they could answer the thirty questions that Georgia had for them to answer. When we were successful in Savannah, then Hosea found eighteen counties in the southeastern part of Georgia, and we started schools in those eighteen counties. That's when we brought in people to the center and trained them.
EUGENE WALKER:
What happened in Savannah?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
In Savannah the success was great. We got these people registered to vote, and in three weeks' time we were able, with the help of the SNCC boys and Southern Christian Leadership Conference's staff, we put 9,000 black registered voters on the books.
EUGENE WALKER:
Can you recall whether this was in '60 or '61?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
'61.
EUGENE WALKER:
So in 1960, what were you doing? It was the year you spent organizing or trying to get . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, we were organizing that year. We didn't have the voting rights bill, and numbers of our people were arrested for trying to register. But nevertheless we went through with it and were able to get bail and bond and bailed them out.
EUGENE WALKER:
What other credentials did Miss Dorothy Cotton bring to the

Page 6
Citizenship Education Program, aside from the fact that you said that she was . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She was really Director of the program from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's part of the program. Dorothy had been working with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference before I came down there, and it was good for her to come and tour the region. She had not worked out from Atlanta, however; she was from Virginia. And when I was transferred from Atlanta, then we formed a team and went through the southern states.
EUGENE WALKER:
And what, then, was the title of Andy Young in this triumvirate of people, Clark, Cotton, and Andy Young? Can you tell me your designation?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. I was directing the teaching at the workshops. Andy Young was the coordinator of the teaching force. And Dorothy Cotton was director of the center.
EUGENE WALKER:
Did you have any strong opposition against this kind of a program that you were going to . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, yes, we did. We had lots of opposition. Andy Young was badly beaten in Tallahassee, Florida, going down there to try to recruit the people. That was in the latter part of '61. When he went in there to try to recruit people, he was beaten. Dorothy Cotton was along. I wasn't in Tallahassee, but at that time Dorothy was not beaten, but Andy was.
EUGENE WALKER:
What was your source of funding aside from this original grant you had, the one that was transferred from Highlander?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
The only money that I knew of was the money that came from the Marshall Field Foundation. No, I'm wrong; the Schwartzhaupt

Page 7
Foundation of New York had given some money, and the executive director of that foundation was Carl Charenson, and Charenson is a Norwegian. But he was working in the college in downtown New York around Fourth Street, and they sent some money to the Highlander Folk School, and with that money we were able to set up workshops like hiring the busses and bringing the people and paying for their meals and giving them money to eat on the way.
EUGENE WALKER:
So when you recruited someone, what was their responsibility other than agreeing to be one of the participants, in terms of their upkeep?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
They had to also promise that they would go back to the community and open up a school, and they were supposed to teach two nights a week, two hours each night. We had all of the books mimeographed that we wanted them to use in teaching.
EUGENE WALKER:
Could you demonstrate for me, not in detail, but generally what it was that you taught these people and what it was they were expected to take back to their communities?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
We used the election laws of that particular state to teach the reading. We used the amount of fertilizer and the amount of seeds to teach the arithmetic, how much they would pay for it and the like. We did some political work by having them to find out about the kind of government that they had in their particular community. And these were the things that we taught them when they went back home. Each state had to have its own particular reading, because each state had different requirements for the election laws.
EUGENE WALKER:
Aside from Tallahassee, can you recall any other area of the

Page 8
South whereby you encountered great difficulty in trying to recruit or establish schools?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
In Natchez, Mississippi, I went down there to recruit and to establish schools. And while I was down there, one night in a Baptist church the Ku Klux Klan surrounded us and had planned to come into the church. The Deacons of Defense from Louisiana had come over that night for the program.
EUGENE WALKER:
Do you recall the year?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That was in the early part of '65, because in '64 we went to Europe and we had just come back. Anyway, at that place we were really having a lot of trouble, but the Chief of Police came out and asked the Ku Klux Klan to go back into their home and asked the colored people would they go to their homes. The reason why I think the Klansmen surrounded us that night at the church was because that day we had carried a large number of people up to the courthouse to register to vote. And while there, one of the white men of the White Citizens' Council kicked a white boy who was working along with me. And when he did that, I called Washington to get the Attorney General to see if we could peacefully work at that courthouse. That's where we had to register. In a few minutes, he called the Chief of Police of Natchez, and when he did that we got protection at the registration office.
EUGENE WALKER:
Can you recall any outstanding students, any students who left the school to go on to distinguish themselves in the movement?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, we have had numbers of students. When I was at Highlander in 1955 and we had our first college workshop, into that

Page 9
workshop came students from the Baptist seminary in Nashville. John Lewis, who is working with Mrs. King today in a workshop, was one of the people who came into that workshop. Bevel worked in that workshop. Diane Nash from Fisk University. There were many students from Nashville and from other parts of the South. Marion Berry—I can't forget him—Marion Berry came. And there's a young man who is Frank who has gone to Japan. I hear from him occasionally. He, too, come out and is working with the movement.
EUGENE WALKER:
Did you ever have an experience whereby somebody was planted in the school to disrupt your process of trying to teach?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Some of those same young college students at Highlander when we had our first college workshop. Long—and I'm trying to think of his first name—came from. . . . He's now President at Talladega. But anyway, he came from Fisk University to talk to the students, and they were afraid that he was going to be what they call "Uncle Tom-ish," and they walked out and slammed the door. But later on they came back in, and at the close of that workshop they decided that they were going to do many things back in their communities.
EUGENE WALKER:
So you didn't have any either real or imagined fears that somebody was trying to disrupt this endeavor, like the FBI or the CIA or anything of that sort.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I really didn't have that feeling, but I learned after that that there were people sent in to spy on us. And in 1969 [1959?] they came, and I found out that the FBI had sent in people. They were peeping all around to see if black girls and white boys, and white

Page 10
girls and black boys were together. And when we had the trial after they raided and arrested us, we found out that they had been there. And they were, well, really disrupting the program at that time, but not for long because we went right back with our work.
EUGENE WALKER:
When did you leave SCLC?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
In 1970. Not until '70; I resigned in 1970.
EUGENE WALKER:
Did you ever think about resigning prior to that time?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, no, I really didn't. Regardless of the hardships that I had to go up against—like being surrounded by the Klan in Natchez; like in Jackson, kneeling down before Thompson's tank in Jackson, Mississippi; having the mountaineers march around and try to frighten us up on the hill there at Highlander—none of those things discouraged me. And of course I was arrested in August 30, 1969 [1959]. Myles Horton was away; he was at Monaco attending a workshop there. And they came. They arrested me, finally, they said, for teaching in an integrated group. But when it went into the district court, they had that I was serving liquor. When they went into the federal courts, then they used integration.
EUGENE WALKER:
Those were external problems. Did you ever have any kind of internal difficulties or hardships in dealing with people within the organization? Within the whole of SCLC.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, I really can say that I didn't have any trouble. There were young people there who would. . . . Every now and then we would have to try to settle their little arguments. But it wasn't anything to actually deter the movement.
EUGENE WALKER:
Right. You didn't have anything in the movement which

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challenged the relevancy of what you were doing or tried to make a case that this department should be eliminated, nothing like that.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, we didn't have anything like that, not with the people who came in.
EUGENE WALKER:
Good. Did any of the leaders of SCLC, like Wyatt T. Walker, Dorothy King, Abernathy, [unknown] , did any of these individuals ever seek your counsel in regard to what should be done in the Citizenship Education Program or in regard to the direction SCLC should be going?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I wrote out a citizenship program, but I had to write a proposal to get the money, and I wrote out the day-by-day program that I took with me to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I can remember Reverend Abernathy asking many times, why was Septima Clark on the Executive Board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference? And Dr. King would always say, "She was the one who proposed this citizenship education which is bringing to us not only money but a lot of people who will register and vote." And he asked that many times. It was hard for him to see a woman on that executive body.
EUGENE WALKER:
How can you interpret that? What was he concerned about? Do you have any idea?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, I think that we live in a man-made world, and because of that, as a man, he didn't feel as if women had really enough intelligence to do a thing like what I was doing.
EUGENE WALKER:
This was never expressed, but this is the way you interpret.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
This is the way I interpreted it, because he kept asking

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the question. Many times we'd go into the meeting, and he'd always want to know why was I a member of that trustee board?
EUGENE WALKER:
Can you recall whether or not you had to have any dealings with Miss Baker, because she didn't leave SCLC until late '61 or '62?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She had gone when I got to Atlanta. When I had my first meeting with Wyatt T. Walker, Miss Ella Baker had gone. Now Miss Ella Baker came up to Highlander many times while I was there and she was working with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She told me many of the things about the men that she disliked, and that they disliked about her, a woman. She had brains. And because of the brain power that she had, they didn't like the things that she said to them. She didn't see why a brochure should have sixteen pictures of Dr. King. She couldn't see why a sign over the door where we met there on Auburn Avenue should have "Dr. King and Reverend Abernathy". She thought that was real foolish, just to have the center there rather than the other things. So I felt that she had a real point there, but nobody was going to listen to her at that time.
EUGENE WALKER:
In '61, when they had the freedom rides going on, and late in '62 while the freedom rides were still going on, they eventually moved them to Albany, which wasn't exactly around Savannah. But that was around the area in which this school was in. What kind of activities were you engaged in during the time of the Albany movement?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I went down to Albany, and I stood at the courthouse door, I guess for eight or ten days, from morning until late afternoon,

Page 13
telling the black people as they came up, "Go ahead and register." Because the white man would say, "You can't vote in this election. It's no use for you to register." And I would say to them, "Registration is permanent in Georgia, so you go ahead and register now. And if you can't vote in this election, you can vote later on. But go ahead and register." So I stayed by that door in Albany, Georgia, from nine o'clock in the morning when the registration books opened till five o'clock in the afternoon, just leaving for lunch and right back.
EUGENE WALKER:
So, aside from the Citizenship Education School, you were also active in the streets in trying to get people to register and vote. The thing I'm trying to ask you is, you weren't confined to this one particular role of teaching in the school?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, the thing about the schools, we had them once or twice a month. And in between, we went into the various communities. Sometimes I was in Albany; sometimes I spent three weeks in Selma, Alabama; sometimes I was in Jacksonville, Georgia. In between the workshops I went to these various places to work with the people.
EUGENE WALKER:
Now let me ask you a few names and get your reaction to them, and I might preface them with a statement somebody else said. But let me just ask you first about this man James S. Wood, who was the public relations man of SCLC. He came down with Wyatt T. Walker. How did you perceive him and the role that he played?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
James Woods, I can't forget him, working there at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I feel that he was just too middle-class to be working with an organization that wanted to reach all the people, because he didn't have any patience to work in

Page 14
small towns or to listen to people who would come in and had to tell so many things. I found that true with most of the men. Myles Horton; as dedicated as he is, Myles Horton couldn't sit and listen to the people from Thomasville, Georgia, tell about the happenings there. It was hard for him to hear them say, "Now this happened the night that that cow had its calf on such-and-such a moon." And he wanted them to come right to the point, and they wouldn't do it. Woods was the same type of a person.
EUGENE WALKER:
So if you were going to rate him on the basis of his effectiveness in the organization, what kind of a rating would he get?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Working in the organization with the people that I felt we needed to work with, I'd have to really rate him "zero". But don't forget, now, he's an intelligent man.
EUGENE WALKER:
All right. Well, you might [unknown] know that Wyatt T. Walker labeled him a "dud"; that's what he labeled him.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He did? [laughter]
EUGENE WALKER:
Yes, he regarded him with . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well.
EUGENE WALKER:
Now I would like your reactions and perceptions of the role that Wyatt T. Walker was fulfilling as Executive Director.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Wyatt T. Walker was just as busy getting cards out for me—you know, name cards—getting forms to sign, but I can't see him interested in the program that had to go into the community. He was a great businessman, and as I see him today—I visited him last April—and I see that he's still that way. He likes the church to have a lot

Page 15
of business. He liked Boarders Church, the Wheat Street Baptist Church better than he liked Ebenezer, because Wheat Street Baptist had a program from the cradle to the grave. And he liked the business part of it, you know, getting the credit union going, the day care center, collecting the money for the various things. This was the kind of thing Wyatt T. Walker. . . . And I saw him last year in New York, and I see those people holding the robe for him to put on; he's a regular god up there. The lady who fixed his dinner, when she fixed his wife's dinner she fixed just a certain thing, and when she fixed his dinner she had a variety of things. They'd bring him some water; they'd put the robe there for him; they have got everything that they think that he needs at that church at that time.
EUGENE WALKER:
What about Andy Young, the same kinds of observations.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Now with Andy, when Andy came to us he had been working with middle-class students who could go to Europe, and he went with them to Europe most of the time. The first group that came in when Andy was there came from eastern Texas, and we took them to the ocean for our recreation one Friday afternoon. And those women wanted to bring back some water to let people know that they had been to Atlantic Ocean. They took the mats off the table in Howard Johnson; they wanted their children to see that they were able to eat in a Howard Johnson. And Andy said to me, "You know, I never thought anything of things like that." He said, "You know, if I hadn't come on this trip with you, I would not have realized just how little of experiences other people have, so I'm glad I've had the chance to work with you." And he grew, though. Down at Penn Center we had a

Page 16
big workshop.
EUGENE WALKER:
What year was that in?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That was 1965, I guess it was. It was right after the voting rights bill. The latter part. And we had a large number of people, and he and Dorothy were singing one of the songs, and both of them had their eyes closed. And I saw a young woman who was really crying, and her face was so distorted, and I wondered what was wrong with her. And she had come from that part of Georgia where Cononea is, and a policeman had arrested her at Cononea, and when they arrested her they put her on the square. They called her a mulatto, and they wanted to make her ashamed. They put her on the square, and you know, they put the cattle prods to her heels to see her jump up and down. And so she couldn't sing "I love everybody." She said, "I just can't sing it." So I called attention to Andy and Dorothy. I said, "You've got to open your eyes and see what's happening to this young woman. She can't sing that song. She can't love everybody when the people treated her so mean. And she came from there into this workshop." You know where Cononea is? Down in Georgia there; it's not too far from Albany. Anyway, Andy and I really had some words about that. [laughter] And he told me that I must have been a saint. I said, "Well, there are all kinds of saints. I don't know who you're talking about, but I want you to keep your eyes about you and see what's happening, because don't expect this young woman to sing that until she can feel more comfortable."
EUGENE WALKER:
That's great. So then, aside from Andy Young, were there any other men in the organization of prominence that you can recall

Page 17
and share your observations with me on at this time?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, the Reverend Jesse Jackson. When he came in, we were . . .
EUGENE WALKER:
When you mention the name, see if you can come as close to the year as you possibly can.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh. The Reverend Jesse Jackson came to us in Warrenton, Virginia, and he brought a proposal to Dr. King. It must have been in 1963, right after those little girls were bombed to death. And he wanted to let us know that we should wrestle from the various states a part of the construction work, so that people could have jobs. And he particularly said, "In Georgia you can't even get a black man to wave the flag for the cars to pass by." Dr. King thought well of what Jesse Jackson was saying, and he really felt that he was going to be a worthwhile fellow to have in the movement. And I did, too. I think for a long time Jesse worked real well with the underprivileged people. But in 1971—now this is after King's death—I went up to Chicago, and I noticed a great glory that he was having there at a Saturday morning meeting. And I said, "Well, now, here's this guy who's turned. He's becoming a god, also."
EUGENE WALKER:
What about Hosea Williams, out of Savannah? How was your working with him?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Now Hosea Williams, I worked with Hosea, and we worked real well in those counties. Hosea was a dynamic leader. And in the workshops he would have a session, and he would drill into those people those thirty questions. They had to answer twenty-four of the thirty questions before they could register to vote. And he really did a good job, doing that. There was one fault I had to find

Page 18
with him, and I wonder if I should say it on this on this thing.
EUGENE WALKER:
Go ahead.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
In the nights when we got through, he would have these young boys out, and they would be having a big time. Hosea likes to drink, and I think he ruined a young man there who is sick now, almost a vegetable, in Savannah. And I think that that was Hosea's downfall, of sitting down and drinking with the young boys, and they didn't know when to stop.
EUGENE WALKER:
What about the other field staff? Can you recall any? We're just dealing with the men; I'm going to ask you about the women . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
James Orange worked in. . . . Oh, James Orange was very good. Carl Ferris is another one who worked real well with us. The only thing about them, they were. . . . James Orange was a flexible guy.
EUGENE WALKER:
He was out of Furman then, right?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. Carl Ferris has no flexibility whatsoever. He wants the thing in an up-to-date manner, and those people who couldn't work his way, he didn't want them to work. This is the fault we found with Carl Ferris. I was wondering why he wasn't in this workshop, but I do know that he and the Kings don't [unknown] too well.
EUGENE WALKER:
But James Orange was flexible.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, he was. And we had another guy down there we called "Sunshine." I understand that he's very sick today. A mule stepped on his foot and he didn't pay much attention to it, and he had to have that foot taken off. That was at Dr. King's funeral. So Mrs. Carr was telling me that Sunshine was very good to bring in people. This was all he could do; he wasn't academics guy at all. Leon Hall, the

Page 19
young man that you saw around there, came from Birmingham. And when we had the march from Selma to Montgomery, so much money came in, Leon felt that he must help himself to some. And he did that, and somehow or other the alarm system went off, and Leon was arrested. That was in the year of '64. Dr. King refused to prosecute Leon, and he said that "the unemployment market for young blacks is so full, that I'll keep him and rehabilitate him." And now he's a great spirit in the movement.
EUGENE WALKER:
That's right. Now there were, from my vantage point, some unofficial voices in SCLC, namely Stanley Levinson and Bayard Rusten. You may know some of them. Did you ever receive any kind of advice or instruction from these individuals?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Not any. Stanley Levinson, I met him at Highlander, and he was in the Highlander workshop when they were celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary. I thought he was very good, but his big thrust was helping us to get money from various foundations. Bayard Rusten, a scholarly guy, and whenever he came to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference he, too, had scholarly lectures to make. I felt that he was exceptionally good, and I have been in other workshops with him at Riverside in New York.
EUGENE WALKER:
Very good. What about the women in the movement? Aside from you and Miss Ella Baker and Miss Dorothy Cotton, whom we've mentioned, can you think of any other women in the SCLC organization or who influenced the SCLC organization?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Thinking about SCLC, there was a woman named Lillie Hunter. She worked with SCLC, and I felt that she was very good. She went with

Page 20
Dr. King to Europe, too. She was working as a secretary, though, to the treasurer, but she went with us to the workshops and really was an excellent person to talk to to carry out the work of getting the checks ready and sending to them and the like. We had a social worker, and she was a Miss Adams, but Miss Adams couldn't get to see poverty-stricken people. That was beneath her. It was hard for her to talk to them. She was a social worker here, first at one of the colleges in Atlanta, and then she came to work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She didn't stay long, because those poverty-stricken people coming out of Alabama and Mississippi were too far beneath her where she could be of service to them. She hired a plane one day to come to the workshop down at Dorchester and failed to send the people money to eat on the way. And when I asked her about it, she was very haughty. And I told her that if it weren't for those people, she wouldn't have bread and butter on her table. So she and I argued about that quite a bit. I disliked it greatly.
EUGENE WALKER:
So you can't think of any other women who one way or another, either officially or unofficially, influenced the movement.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I'm trying to think to see if I know of any other women who influenced the movement. Now I worked with a number of women in South Carolina, women from Newberry, South Carolina, and I can't think of their names. But that was around 1956 and 1957.
EUGENE WALKER:
No, that's much earlier.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. the Southern Christian Leadership. It was with the Highlander people, getting schools established and getting people to come to Highlander. But with the Southern Christian Leadership

Page 21
Conference, when Esau Jenkins came in and we had to get the islands going, there was a Mrs. . . .
EUGENE WALKER:
Who was Esau Jenkins?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Esau Jenkins was a dynamic leader—he's dead now—from John's Island who came to the Highlander Folk School and went back because he wanted to get people registered to vote, and set up the first citizenship school there. And after setting up the first citizenship school, they built a building where they sold things to themselves, and we held classes in the back. And we held workshops down there, also.
[Interruption]
EUGENE WALKER:
In regard to philosophy, a lot of people, I understand, were drawn to Dr. King because of his personality and his charisma. Others were drawn to him because of his non-violent philosophy. What was it that one may attribute to your alliance with the organization, in regard to Dr. King's philosophy?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Thinking about Dr. King, I had the experience of knowing that he was really non-violent. Coming from Albany, Georgia, one night, we were riding in a car, and some white fellows came behind us and finally cut across in front of us. And the young man who was driving us—Dr. King was in the car—got out and went into the trunk of his car and took out a pistol, and the white fellows went on. And Dr. King said, "Frank, do you think I wanted you to do that? No, Frank, that's not the way to do it." Then one night I was on an airplane, Southern . . .
EUGENE WALKER:
What was his last name, do you remember?

Page 22
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I don't know Frank's last name, really. And coming from Montgomery on a little Southern plane, they had a man as the steward instead of a stewardess. And this was in the early part of '64. A fellow jumped up and slapped Dr. King, and he just moved over. First he said to him, "You're reading about yourself, aren't you?—he was reading the paper—and then he hit him. And Dr. King just moved right over and didn't say a word. And the steward got him and put him back in his seat. In a few minutes he jumped up again and drew back to hit him, and that steward got him and tied him down in the seat until we reached Atlanta. But Dr. King never would strike back. In Birmingham at Gaston's Motel in 1963, before those little girls were killed, we were having a workshop down there. And numbers of men were talking, and Dr. King was introducing a fellow from California. A white fellow came up with his collar wide open, and we wondered if this was the man he was introducing. And when he got up there he hit Dr. King in the face twice. And Dr. King dropped his hands like that of a newborn baby. And I was sitting to the front, and I said, "Don't hit him: Don't hit him:" I knew that he'd just had some trouble with that heart, where that woman stuck that knife or scissors or dagger right across from the heart. And so he dropped his hands, and the other men jumped up, old men eighty years of age and all, they had sticks: they were about to hit him. And Dr. King said, "Don't touch him. Don't touch him. We have to pray for him." But somebody called the policeman. The policeman came and took this white guy away. And they wanted Dr. King to come up and put charges against him, which he

Page 23
refused. And they said he would have to do it, and that afternoon we all prepared to march up to that courthouse. But he decided that he would not prefer the charges against the man. And we found out that it was that guy that was killed by one of his own men in Virginia, Rockwell.
EUGENE WALKER:
It was Rockwell who had hit him?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Rockwell, that's who it was. And so it must have been two years or so after that, a fellow killed him, the leader of that Nazi party. And he wouldn't do one thing. And Mrs. Parks was in that meeting, and she went out and got a bottle of Coca-Cola. She wanted Dr. King to get some Coca-Cola and some aspirins, because she knew that his head must have been hurting at that time.
Then in 1963—it was Good Friday—we saw those guys roughing him up to take him to jail because he had planned the march, you know, to get the stores and things opened uptown. At the same time we were working with young people, telling them if they couldn't march without being violent, then we'd have to take them off the line. Well, when I saw him throwing his hands down when somebody hit him. . . . Then another time I was in Chicago, when we had a New Politics convention, and I thought sure they were going to get him then. Blacks were marching around, and seemingly they were angry about it, too. And I thought, "Now they're going to really get him." But they got him out of a door and got him onto the plane, and a policeman herded all of us out through another door and we got home and went away that next day. But we've been in some very . . .
EUGENE WALKER:
So you were absolutely convinced that he was a non-violent . . .

Page 24
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I am convinced, because he would not strike back. And he was the only man. I can't tell you that I feel that same way. I can't fight—I've never been a person to fight—but when Fanny Lou Hamer was being tried in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1964 because she and some others went into the front part of a bus station in Indianola, Mississippi. . . . They threw them all in jail, and she is a crippled woman, and they beat her terribly. Well, when I heard those men testifying at that trial, I wished that a chandelier would drop on their heads and kill them. My mind wasn't non-violent. And I don't think that I've gotten to the place today where my mind is quite non-violent, because I still have feelings at times that I'd like to do something violently to stop people.
EUGENE WALKER:
Did Dr. King have a difficult problem keeping most of the flock from engaging in violence?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, sure, he did. This guy that spoke this afternoon, C. T. Ribbon? C. T. Ribbon had a fist fight on the [laughter] street outside the courthouse in Birmingham. He started beating up a white man, and we had to grab him and take him inside.
EUGENE WALKER:
Do you remember the year of that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That was early '63. Yes, Birmingham, first time. Yes. Oh.
EUGENE WALKER:
Did they fear any kind of problem within the structure of SCLC?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, whenever he got the executive group together, he would lecture to them about being non-violent. "You can't win," he said. "You can't win if you're going to fight back."

Page 25
And he had Stokely Carmichael to come to his house to dinner to tell Stokely, "You can't win if you're going to send the boys up and down the street to knock out the window glasses of the stores along Morgan Avenue." And I really felt that he meant it. But that was the way he was. And then when he received that Nobel Peace Prize, when he received that $54,000, he said up there in Oslo, Norway, he said, "I'm on the mountaintop now, but I have to think about those people down in the valley who placed me here. This money is not mine. I must give it to the NAACP, to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to the Urban League," and another thing that McKissick represented.
EUGENE WALKER:
CORE.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
CORE. He had to give it to those. And when we came back to New York and we went up to the Armory that night and had a big program, he had the checks made out and he gave that money away. And his wife was furious. Coretta was furious. I know she was. She spoke; she said, "You're not thinking about the children." He said, "They'll be taken care of."
EUGENE WALKER:
I see.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
But you see, his way and her way had been paid to Norway; the country took care of them. Reverend King and his wife were taken care of by contributions coming into the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I don't know whether Wyatt T. Walker paid, but I paid my way, and I felt that it was justifiable for me to pay my way when a Southern black man could win a Nobel Peace Prize.
EUGENE WALKER:
So let me ask you to make this comparison, if you will. You had the opportunity to observe the development of SCLC under Wyatt

Page 26
T. Walker and to observe the running of SCLC by Andy Young. How would you compare the two in their work in SCLC as heads of it, I mean Executive Directors?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Wyatt T. Walker could get his (people say) "dander up" every now and then, and he could dress you out. I think both of them would take a nip. Wyatt T. Walker would go every afternoon down to those joints and get him something to drink, and he didn't disown it. Andy, if he drank anything, he hardly would let you see it, and he kept a very even kind of way of speaking to the people, regardless. He used to say continuously, "Let God do it. God'll answer this question for you." And even Dorothy Cotton used to be angry with him when he'd say, "Let God do it." [laughter]
EUGENE WALKER:
What did he mean by that?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He wasn't going to touch it. [laughter]
EUGENE WALKER:
[laughter]
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
If they had any kind of disagreement, you know, and she disliked what was said or anything of that type, he wasn't going to touch it. He was going to let God do it, let you work it out yourself.
EUGENE WALKER:
[laughter] Said, " Just leave and take it out."
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
EUGENE WALKER:
What about Wyatt T. Walker?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He would always try to straighten things out, and he wasn't non-violent. He straightened it out violently. He would curse sometimes. I never did see him fight anybody, but he'd let them know how he'd feel about it.

Page 27
EUGENE WALKER:
So which one do you think SCLC enjoyed its greatest growth under?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Under Andy Young, I'm sure.
EUGENE WALKER:
God did it, then.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
EUGENE WALKER:
Wyatt T. Walker and that of Andy Young.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. And I said that Andy Young and Wyatt T. Walker were two different types of people. Wyatt T. Walker was a great businessman who, to my mind, was not at all non-violent. Andy Young was more on the non-violent group, and there were problems that he never would touch. He'd always say, "Let God do it." And so when we went to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, there weren't but two women working in the office, Lillie Hunter and. . . . The guy in Cincinnati, his wife. She was a Smith at that time.
EUGENE WALKER:
I'm a little confused here. The Dorchester School was apart from SCLC?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, yes. I mean it was located down in Liberty County, Georgia.
EUGENE WALKER:
Right. And when did you move to Atlanta?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I worked out from Atlanta.
EUGENE WALKER:
And when did you start work? That's when you said, "When the school moved to SCLC, it wasn't but two women." I was trying to follow.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
When we came from the Highlander Folk School.

Page 28
EUGENE WALKER:
Oh.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
You see, Andy and I came from the Highlander Folk School to Atlanta. Dorothy Cotton and Lillie Hunter, those were the two women working there. Under Andy's regime, we branched out to something like fifteen different women. The organization grew. See, at that time, they were just upstairs in two or three rooms.
EUGENE WALKER:
Did this happen as a result of Andy's initiative, or in spite of him?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I think it happened because of the team of workers, Andy Young, Dorothy Cotton, and I, going into the various communities, getting the citizenship schools started. There was at one time 195 classes going on in the eleven deep-South states, which called for a number of workers to work. And those women had to mimeograph books for each state. They had to get material out. They had to order material from Texas, we used some, and we used the Laubach method, too. They had to keep track of the students and all of the things that we needed for the students, so it branched out into a big thing. Expanded, rather.
EUGENE WALKER:
In your observation of what was happening in the so-called hierarchy of SCLC, which one of the individuals do you feel had the greatest influence on Dr. King?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Andy Young. I think Andy Young had more influence with Dr. King than Wyatt T. Walker.
EUGENE WALKER:
Did he have more than Abernathy?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
A thousand times more. [laughter]
EUGENE WALKER:
He did?

Page 29
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I really feel that. Abernathy tried so hard to be a Dr. King, so much so that he. . . . Well, he got credit cards for him and for his wife to travel, and when Dr. King had to call in these things, he said, "I'll not do it." They were at variance, but King would never fuss with him. They were at variance many times. And the secretaries would try to get to Reverend Abernathy and tell Reverend Abernathy what Dr. King would like for him to do, but he resented it.
EUGENE WALKER:
But Reverend Abernathy was the treasurer of the organization.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, he was the treasurer.
EUGENE WALKER:
He wrote the checks.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's right.
EUGENE WALKER:
Kept up with the money.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
His secretary, Lillie Hunter, did it.
EUGENE WALKER:
He wasn't the one who wrote the checks, but he would certainly okay them all.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. He was supposed to okay them, but, you know, he had to do what the. . . . We were on the trustee board, but there was a financial group, and that was made up of two or three men like Randolph Blackwell and Andy Young and Dr. King and Lillie Hunter.
EUGENE WALKER:
You've suggested that Andy had the greatest influence on Dr. King. Who had the greatest influence on Andy Young?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Well, I felt—and I don't want to give myself a lot of praise—but I felt that working with Andy Young, that I was able to get him to drop down from a highly middle-class man to where he could work with low-income, poverty-stricken people. He has said that so

Page 30
many times, just like Guy Caveron was saying in this meeting last night, that "I had great experience with Septima Clark. It's incredible to say what she was able to do for me."
EUGENE WALKER:
Good.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I could always work with the. . . . Well, I've been one all my life. I've been a poverty-stricken, low-income person, and I know how to work with them.
EUGENE WALKER:
What, then, do you regard as having been the high point of SCLC, when it was at its height in terms of influence on the American people?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I really feel that when we had the marches in Birmingham and were able to get the civil rights bill—in 1964 it came out, before we went to Europe—and then when we did the Selma-to-Montgomery march in March of '65. And in August of '65 we got the voting rights bill. I really felt that that was a great turning point and that it had great effect on the American people. And the reason why I say that: I went into Selma, Alabama, and worked from May, '65, to August getting people to learn how to write their names. I had opposition with five black preachers, who didn't want me to teach them to write their names in cursive writing. And when they wrote their names in cursive writing, they received a number which said that they could register when the federal man came down in August. All right, Dr. King sent us in there to get this done: Ben Mack of Columbia; Bernice Robinson of Charleston; Asley Johnson, now of Idlewild, Michigan, but then of Monroe, North Carolina. We went in together. All of them left me; they couldn't take the foolishness

Page 31
from those preachers. And I stayed, and on the fifth day I was able to get it done, and I got the teachers of Selma to work in their kitchens and in various offices to teach these people to write. And when they learned to write their names, they had to go uptown to the courthouse and demonstrate that they could write their name. And then they received a number. And in August of that year we had 7,002 persons ready to write their names, and we got that many voters. In 1966 on May the third, I went into Camden, Alabama, and down into Anamanee and another little town down there, and it was election time. And the federal examiner was with us, and he pulled a seat for a black girl to sit down and a white girl to sit beside her. Both of them, hands shook. And after their hands shook, they finally got to the place where they could put the names on the books of the people who came to register to vote. But here comes a white farmer. "Who ever heard tell of voting by the ABC's?" Because over the top of those windows, they had you vote according to the last name, whether it's A, B, or C. He was accustomed to black people standing back until white people were served, and that thing worried him, but he had to do it. And so they registered in that fashion. One of the fellows we were teaching in Anamanee went up to the bank in Camden, and the man took the pen and said, "I'll make the X." He said, "You don't have to make the X for me, because I can write my own name." He says, "My God, them niggers done learned to write their names."
EUGENE WALKER:
You all took a great deal of . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Alabama: Camden, Alabama.
EUGENE WALKER:
What, then, do you regard as having been the low point

Page 32
in SCLC, if the high point was in '63, and you cited some examples whereby your organization got a lot of people registered. What do you regard as having been the low point?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I went into Oxford, Mississippi. I came back from Europe in '64, and I went into Oxford, Mississippi, because these same people who had been beaten, their trial came up then. And most of the SNCC boys had gone somewhere to have a meeting. And I went into that trial, and you know, we didn't have any support. I went in, and I couldn't get any of the black people in Oxford to give me a room to stay there. I had to go all the way down to Holly Springs, ride forty-six miles every morning, and I did that for five days back and forth to that trial.
EUGENE WALKER:
[unknown]
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, they were afraid. They wouldn't give us anything to eat. Had to go to a drugstore and buy potato chips and things like that, until I could get back to Holly Springs to that lady. And the woman was a beautician, so she wasn't afraid. And her husband was working at the college in Holly Springs, so she was not afraid to keep me. And I was able to go back and forth from her house. And all I was doing was sitting up in that courtroom while these people were tried. But I thought that it was a terrible thing that nobody from SCLC was there to support us at that time. There were five of our people. Enelle Ponder, she was a great [unknown] . They beat her eyes almost out.
EUGENE WALKER:
Enelle Ponder.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Uh-huh. She lives here in Atlanta.

Page 33
EUGENE WALKER:
I know it. We went to school with her.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
You did! Poor Enelle. She was. . . . And the only thing Enelle would say when they called her up on that witness stand was "Bless God" or something like that. Wouldn't speak out for herself. Oh, but her eye was [unknown] .
EUGENE WALKER:
She's a beautiful person. She's out of the movement now, so she's not talking to many people.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Oh, really? I wish I could find her.
EUGENE WALKER:
I know exactly where she lives, but she won't answer the door.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No? Oh, I'm sorry to hear about Enelle. [Interruption]
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She's had a hard time, and a terrible time. She fell in love first with Moses Paris.
EUGENE WALKER:
Sometime in Mississippi?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. In Mississippi. That was in Greenwood. And then after falling in love with him, then she came back here and had two children for Bevel; the first one died. And I don't know if she can get over . . .
EUGENE WALKER:
And she's living with Bevel?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Uh-huh.
EUGENE WALKER:
I didn't know that. She was a very courageous girl.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She's got a girl now, and she has her master's degree. What I call her, she and that boy—and I can't think of his name—in . . . [Interruption] [unknown] I consider Enelle and the young man in Savannah, Georgia, victims of

Page 34
the movement. They just couldn't take the movement. It was just too much for them.
EUGENE WALKER:
Who was the young man?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I can't think of his name. A guy in Savannah, Georgia, and he was a great friend of Hosea. He started drinking with Hosea, and then he started with dope.
EUGENE WALKER:
Can you think of any more of the young ladies who seem to have been waylaid by the movement, or put in a kind of position as Enelle?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
As Enelle was?
EUGENE WALKER:
You can just share the names if you care to think of any. You don't have to feel . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I can't think of any of the young women. They seem to have been pretty strong. I don't know of any of them who fell by the wayside like. . . . Now some of the white girls fell in love with the boys, and they couldn't do anything else about it.
EUGENE WALKER:
From your observation, when the white girls came into the movement, did they create any problems?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Great problems. [laughter] Because going into the South, we tried to get them to say that . . .
EUGENE WALKER:
Was this with SCLC as well as SNCC?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
SCLC. You know, we had a program called "Scope."
EUGENE WALKER:
Hosea Williams had.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, Hosea Williams had that "Scope" program. And so we had large numbers of white girls coming in. A whole group from Friendsworld College worked with me in Selma, registering and voting.

Page 35
They were very hard voters, but they were hardheaded, too. I tried to get them to stay from uptown at nights, and naturally they would get into trouble. They'd arrest them if they saw them up there with those black boys.
EUGENE WALKER:
Did the black girls resent them?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Very much. And in Mississippi I had lots of complaints from the black girls about the white girls coming in. They claimed that they took over the black boys completely, and they weren't able to get anything done. And the same thing was true in California when I was out there. The black girls, when they went to parties at Santa Cruz, the black boys took up all their time with the white girls.
EUGENE WALKER:
Well, let me on this one, and then this would be the end, because I know you're fatigued; I'm tired myself. In '66 and '67, I believe, you really had some turbulent years in SCLC, because this was the time when you were having opposition from black power advocates. At the same time, Dr. King came out with his position against the war. What was your perception at this time of what was going on?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Dr. King came to Charleston in 1967, July the 31st it was, and our whole city was under martial law. But the white students from the college came to hear him; they didn't want him to leave. Rosa Parks and all came down there. And they were getting a lot of good history. He was telling about the Vietnam war, how it happened to come for, what kind of man Thieu was, and the like. And they were anxious to hear all of these things. But we were able to get him in and out. And they had a lot of men that they made officers just for that day to

Page 36
surround him. He came to my house. I fed him. I had many news reporters, and all these kids were there and the like. But it was quite a day, quite a day.
EUGENE WALKER:
So what was your position on this stand he took that America should be out of that Vietnam War? Did you think it was a mistake on his part?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No. I went to Washington in March of 1968 and worked with a team from all over the United States interviewing senators and representatives. They gave me the nine southeastern states. I was the only black member of that team. And every one of those black [sic] representatives and senators treated me with real accord, I must say, except the Louisiana man, Kirkland Finley. And he said, "I know what the American Friends Service Committee wants"—they had four questions—"they want us to take the troops out of Vietnam, and this is what they want. And we're not about to listen." I said "Thank you," and I moved on. Anyway, the man from Tennessee said that "We have written Johnson many letters about that, and we feel that he should draw the troops out." That Sunday night when I got home, Johnson made that statement that he was not going to run for a third term. And he said that his daughter said, "Daddy, does Robb have to go to the war?"—that was her husband—and so he changed his mind about the Vietnam war.
EUGENE WALKER:
This was about two years after King had originally come out for it, but [unknown] to come around; at first they were resentful.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Very much so. When we went to New York in '66 at Riverside

Page 37
Church? You remember those black . . .
EUGENE WALKER:
Yes. [unknown] where you made that speech up there?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Those black men surrounded. . . . I thought we weren't going to get through that picket line. But somebody carried me through the picket line. I was up there that night.
EUGENE WALKER:
Can you recall anybody within the hierarchy of SCLC who tried to get Dr. King not to speak out against the war?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No.
EUGENE WALKER:
One other thing, then. What about when Black Power cries were being heard? How did this affect you in SCLC?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
With the black power boys, I was in Atlanta one Sunday and Monday. I invited Stokely Carmichael to come with me. I wanted to talk to him. And he brought six other boys. I brought them to Pascal's and fed them all. And when I asked him about his behavior, you know, with the black power bit, he just laughed. I said, "Can't you find something else to tell these young men to do other than to have them going around with their fists clenched, saying ‘Black Power’ and intimidating black people up and down Auburn Avenue?" He was tickled to death about it. But I saw him in Washington since that time, and he said, "Mrs. Clark talked with me. I didn't believe her, but when I went to Europe Nkrumah gave me three books to read and said, ‘You still want to fight?’ Said, ‘Now, if you want to fight, tell me. Do you want to fight now?’ " And he had changed his mind about his fighting in his black power thing.
EUGENE WALKER:
Mrs. Clark, this has been a real, real insightful interview, and you've made, I think, some significant revelations to me. And it's

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time to go. I want to ask you one final question before we go. Can you think of anything that has happened in SCLC, any experience that you had in SCLC which needs to be known at this time, that have not been made public?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I think the thing that I would like to have known is the fact that when Dr. King came back from Europe and when we were working through Alabama and Mississippi and other places, he said then that "There is something else we must do. We must get into politics, and we must see about the economy, so that our people can have a better status." And he brought in a man here from Michigan, who was going to do something. I wish I knew his name now, but I've got it in my piece that I'm writing called "A Fabulous Decade." He brought this man in to . . .
EUGENE WALKER:
Saul Alinsky?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
No, Saul Alinsky came before that, and this was another guy who was going through the South. Yes, I remember Alinsky and Samson, who worked with him. But this was another fellow who came, and he went through the southern states to see if they could find a way to do something. You know, SWAPSCO was started then, that agricultural program whereby they could get more money for their crops. That was the one thing that came out of that. And I think he would have been able to do so much more, but he was cut short then.
EUGENE WALKER:
Have you ever heard of the man Jack O'Dell?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Do I?! Yes.
EUGENE WALKER:
Tell us something about Jack O'Dell. I know that he was a

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strategist, I guess, for SCLC.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes.
EUGENE WALKER:
He worked behind the scenes.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
That's right.
EUGENE WALKER:
But I don't know much more than that.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Jack O'Dell was a very dedicated worker, but he had worked with some communist groups in New Orleans before he came to. . . . And they found it out, and when they found it out, SCLC had a meeting, and they had to do away with O'Dell. He was the guy [unknown] I wrote that article. He was the guy that I wrote "Literacy and Liberation," and it must have been '65 or '66. But he stayed there. I've seen him in New York, too.
EUGENE WALKER:
What was his role in SCLC?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
He had a role not exactly like Wyatt T. Walker, but he was really . . .
EUGENE WALKER:
He was running the New York office.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, he was running, but he was in Atlanta for quite some time, you know, working here with the groups and sending the groups out into what we called the hinterland.
EUGENE WALKER:
And I was reading in one of the newsletters whereby he spoke to some of your groups.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, he did.
EUGENE WALKER:
Citizenship education.
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, we were happy for him, because he did an excellent job talking to them.
EUGENE WALKER:
Well, Mrs. Clark, we'll terminate at this time, and I want

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to thank you for your [unknown] .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
If you need more
END OF INTERVIEW