CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A Civil Rights leader and Charleston educator is now featured on a collectible $1 coin from the United States Mint.
The United States Mint American Innovation $1 Coin Program is a multi-year series to honor innovation and innovators by issuing $1 coins for each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the five U. S. territories – Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
This coin, which features South Carolina educator and Civil Rights activist Septima Poinsette Clark, was the fourth and final coin minted in 2020.
Clark was born in Charleston in 1898; she was the second of eight children born to Peter Poinsette, a former slave, and his freeborn wife, Victoria Anderson.
She attended the Avery Institute where she completed her teacher training program in 1916 – later teaching rural black youth on Johns Island before losing her position in 1956 because of her “civil rights activities,” according to Damon L. Fordham, an Adjunct Professor of History at The Citadel.
Clark’s contributions to the Civil Rights movement included creating and leading the Citizenship School program, which educated nearly $10,000 African Americans to understand the Constitution and pass discriminatory voting tests.
“She traveled 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,” said Fordham in an interview with News 2 in November 2019.
She returned to Charleston in the 1970s and was later elected to the Charleston School Board in 1975. Clark 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.
According to the U.S. Mint, Clark believed that “knowledge could empower marginalized groups in ways that formal legal equality couldn’t.”
The American Innovation $1 Coin, which honors the educators and Civil Rights activist, was issued in 2020. The front of the coin features a representation of the Statue of Liberty in profile, and the reverse side, or tails, depicts Clark marching with three young African American students who carry books and an American flag.
“Representing that education and literacy among oppressed people is necessary for empowerment and enjoyment of civil rights,” the U.S. Mint said in its description.
The coin was sculpted by Medallic Artist Phebe Hemphill and designed by Justin Kunz with the Artistic Infusion Program.
The U.S. Mint began accepting orders for the collector’s coin in mid-January.