LIFE AND WORK OF SEPTIMA P. CLARK, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER, NOW A NEW ONLINE EXHIBITION

Bernice Robinson (standing left) and Septima Clark (standing right) lead a Citizenship School teacher training workshop, ca. 1961, courtesy of the Avery Research Center.

The Lowcountry Digital History Initiative is excited to announce the online exhibition, “Remembering Individuals, Remembering Communities: Septima P. Clark and Public History in Charleston,” written by Katherine Mellen Charron, North Carolina State University. The exhibition interprets and maps the life and work of Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987), to provide insights into her experiences as an African American civil rights educator and activist. Highlighting this history not only reveals the significance of the black freedom struggle in Charleston, it also challenges ongoing race, class, and gender divisions throughout the city’s public history landscape.

Septima P. Clark, May 1973

Author Katherine Mellen Charron argues Septima Clark is often publically remembered in Charleston as “an elderly woman who rendered great service to a more distant civil rights movement.” However, this exhibition seeks to recover the story of Septima Clark’s radicalism and leadership in the civil rights movement beginning in the early 1920s and throughout her life. The exhibition features a virtual tour of important sites relevant to the life, work, and memory of Septima P. Clark in downtown Charleston and the surrounding area. From Clark’s childhood home to the Coming Street YWCA, the interactive map highlights twenty-two sites significant to Clark’s story as well as the wider civil rights movement in Charleston.

Thanks to a grant from the National Archives’ National Historical Publications & Record Commission, the Septima P. Clark Papers have been made available online by the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture and the Lowcountry Digital Library. Historic photographs, documents, and a selection of Clark’s writings and oral histories are featured in the exhibition, exploring the ongoing issues of America’s history of racial inequality from Clark’s perspective.