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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 30, 1976. Interview G-0017. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Female leaders are sometimes challenged and ignored in the SCLC

Clark faced frequent skepticism about her position on the trustee board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference because she was the only female trustee. The prejudice she faced from Ralph Abernathy was multiplied for Ella Baker because she advocated for less focus on the male SCLC leaders.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 30, 1976. Interview G-0017. 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

EUGENE WALKER:
Good. Did any of the leaders of SCLC, like Wyatt T. Walker, Dorothy King, Abernathy,, 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 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.