When She Refused To Stop Teaching, This Happened

Marchers with signs at the March on Washington 1963
Leslie Taylor-Grover
August 28, 2020

Septima Clark was an amazing teacher. Despite the intense segregation in South Carolina, through her innovative methods she taught hundreds of Black children and adults to read and write.

But she wasn’t satisfied. Why?

There were countless good, Black teachers, but they couldn’t get hired in public schools. And rural schools paid far less to teach far higher numbers of children.

So she worked with the NAACP to get thousands of signatures on a petition demanding justice. The state hired some Black teachers – but there was a price to pay.

South Carolina passed a law forbidding teachers from working with civil rights organizations! Clark had to give up her racial justice work or lose her job, effective immediately.

The choice was easy: she quit her job. But the story doesn’t end there.

Clark used her skills to teach adults in community “citizenship schools,” where they learned reading and writing as well as state government and election procedures.

She began to travel all over the South, and she helped create over 800 of these schools to empower our people to read, write, and vote!

Clark understood one thing: if voting and educating ourselves wasn’t important, white supremacy wouldn’t be working so hard to prevent us from doing them! We must always ensure we educate ourselves and our communities, and exercise our rights.

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