2 Your Roots: The history behind Septima P. Clark Parkway

2 Your Roots

Charleston, S.C. (WCBD) – Educator and civil rights activist, Septima P. Clark, was born in Charleston in 1898. According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia, Clark was the second of eight children born to the former slave Peter Poinsette and his freeborn wife, Victoria Anderson.

Damon L. Fordham, an Adjunct Professor of History at the Citadel says Clark attended the Avery institute and completed her teacher training program in 1916. He explains that she taught rural black youth on John’s Island before losing her position is 1956 because of her “civil rights activities”.

“During that time she was not working in Charleston, she travelled the South with people like Martin Luther King Jr., teaching illiterate adults how to read and write so they could take charge of their own lives.”

Clark returned to Charleston in the 1970’s. She was elected to the Charleston School Board in 1975 and according to the South Carolina Encyclopedia; she received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the College of Charleston in 1978, received a “Living Legacy Award” from President Jimmy Carter in 1979, and was given South Carolina’s highest award, the “Order of the Palmetto” in 1892.

Fordham explains, “The City commemorated her memory by naming the Parkway and a couple of schools named after her. But of course these things mean nothing unless you know the story, behind the person, behind the names.”

Septima P. Clark died on Johns Island in 1987.

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