MAY 3, 1898

Credit: Bob Fitch photography archive, © Stanford University Libraries

Septima Poinsette Clark, whom Martin Luther King Jr. called “the mother of the movement,” was born in Charleston, South Carolina.  

As an educator, she studied summers with W.E.B. Du Bois at Atlanta University and later worked with Thurgood Marshall on successful litigation that equalized salaries for Black and white teachers. 

In 1956, after the South Carolina Legislature passed a law that banned state employees from belonging to the NAACP, the school board fired Clark, who lost all her pension, despite 40 years of work. She began conducting workshops at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee and helped establish “Citizenship Schools,” which spread through the Deep South. 

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter awarded her a Living Legacy Award, and three years later, South Carolina honored her with its highest civilian honor. She died in 1987 on the same Johns Island where she originally taught.

More on this day


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Take our 2023 reader survey

The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.