Septima Poinsette Clark (inducted 2020)

Biographical Statement

Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987) innovated in teaching adult reading and writing within the functional context of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In 1957, she  started the first Citizenship School serving adult African-Americans on Johns Island in South Carolina. In teaching students to write their names, Clark had them write their names on cardboard. According to Clark (1962), “What the student does is trace with his pencil over and over his signature until he gets the feel of writing his name. I suppose his fingers memorize it by doing it over and over; he gets into the habit by repeating the tracing time after time.” Working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and other civil rights groups from 1962 to 1966, Clark lead the Voter Registration Project that subsequently prepared 10,000 teachers for citizenship schools where they taught adult  literacy within the functional context of voter registration. By the time Clark retired from her SCLC work in 1970 over a million African-Americans had registered to vote in the south (Clark, 1986).  References:  Clark, S.  (1962). Echo In My Soul. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co. and Clark, S. (1986). Ready from Within: Septima Clark and the Civil Rights Movement. Navarro, CA: Wild Trees Press.