Remembering Individuals, Remembering Communities: Septima P. Clark and Public History in Charleston

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About the Project Author

Katherine Mellen Charron teaches 20th Century U.S. History, African American, southern, and women's and gender history at North Carolina State University. Dr. Charron's first monograph, Freedom's Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark (UNC Press, 2009) won the 2010 Julia Cherry Spruill Prize for the best book in southern women's history, awarded by the Southern Association of Women's Historians; and the 2010 George C. Rogers Jr. prize for best book in South Carolina history, awarded by the South Carolina Historical Society. She is currently working on two projects that focus on women and the African American freedom struggle in rural northeastern North Carolina in the post-Voting Rights Act (1965) era. 

This online exhibition is based on a presentation delivered by Dr. Charron at the 2015 Southern Association for Women Historians’ Triennial Conference at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina.

Editorial Contributors

Millicent Brown, Independent Scholar and retired Professor of History from Claflin University
Glenda Gilmore, Yale University 
Georgette Mayo, Processing Archivist, Avery Research Center, College of Charleston
Crystal Sanders, Penn State University
Stephanie Yuhl, College of the Holy Cross

National Historical Publications and Records Commission ( 

Special Thanks

Special thanks to the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston for use of the Septima P. Clark Papers, ca. 1910-ca. 1990Select materials featured in this exhibition are available online through the Avery Research Center’s Collections on the Lowcountry Digital Library (LCDL). Through the generous support of the National Historical Publications & Records Commission, the Avery Research Center and LCDL received a grant in 2015 to digitize and make freely accessible online sixteen archival collections that provide insight into the significant role of leaders and organizations from Charleston, South Carolina, and the surrounding Lowcountry region in the twentieth century civil rights movement.

The author would also like to thank Mary Pinckney Battle and Amanda Noll for their invaluable assistance in bringing this project to fruition as well as graduate students Monica Bowman and Jamie Mansbridge.

Primary Sources:

Clark, Septima. “Beyond Chaos: A New History for a New Generation.” n.d., ca. 1968. Septima Poinsette Clark Papers. Avery Research Center for the Study of African American History and Culture, Charleston, South Carolina.

_____. “The Nature of Current Revolts.” Handwritten copy. May 8, 1969. Septima Poinsette Clark Papers. Avery Research Center for the Study of African American History and Culture, Charleston, South Carolina. 

_____. “Literacy and Liberation.” Freedomways (Winter 1964): 113-124.

_____. “The Challenge to Black and White.” n.d., ca. 1968. Septima Poinsette Clark Papers. Avery Research Center for the Study of African American History and Culture, Charleston, South Carolina.

_____. “The Vocation of Black Scholarship: Identifying the Enemy.” n.d., ca. 1968. Septima Poinsette Clark Papers. Avery Research Center for the Study of African American History and Culture, Charleston, South Carolina. 

“News from Highlander Folk School.” October 8, 1959. Highlander Research and Education Center Papers, 1917-1978. State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin.

Simmons, Harriet. Harriet Simons to the South Carolina Council of Human Relations. February 7, 1955. Harriet Stoney Simons Collection. South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston, South Carolina.

Avery Research Center Collection Inventories:

Bernice Robinson Papers, 1920 - 1989

Esau Jenkins Papers, 1963-2003  

Mamie E. Garvin Fields Papers, 1894 - 1987                 

Septima P. Clark Papers, ca. 1910-ca. 1990

YWCA of Greater Charleston, Inc., Records, 1906 - 2007

Secondary Sources:

Bunch, Lonnie. “Embracing Controversy: Museum Exhibitions and the Politics of Change.” The Public Historian 14:3 (Summer 1992): 63-65.

Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “What to See and Do>Tours>African American/Ethnic.” Accessed May 5, 2015. 

“Charleston’s African American Heritage.” Accessed May 5, 2015.

Charron, Katherine Mellen. Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Clark, Septima. Ready from Within: A First Person Narrative: Septima Clark and the Civil Rights Movement, edited by Cynthia Stokes Brown. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1990.

_____ and LeGette Blythe. Echo in My Soul. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1962.

Cornwell, Ruby. Interview by Katherine Mellen Charron, James Island, South Carolina, April 11, 2002.

Fields, Mamie Garvin and Karen Fields. Lemon Swamp and Other Places: A Carolina Memoir. New York: Free Press, 1983.

Frazier, Herb. “Witnesses Testify about Subtle Racism.” Post and Courier, July 24, 2002.

_____ and Arlie Porter. “Waring Testifies Race Key Political Factor.” Post and Courier, July 25, 2002. 

Hardin, Jason. “The Gates of Charleston: What Affordable Housing Means to the Changing Face of the Peninsula.” Post and Courier, April 5, 2002.

Jenkins, Wilbert L. Seizing the New Day: African Americans in Post-Civil War Charleston. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.

Porter, Arlie. “Discrimination Legacy Detailed in Fed Case.” Post and Courier, July 23, 2002.

Powers Jr., Bernard E. Black Charlestonians: A Social History, 1822-1885. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994.

Theses and Dissertations:

Bethlenfalvy, Alexandra Elizabeth. "'Our Brother's Keepers': Ethel Grimball and the Wadmalaw Citizenship School." Master's thesis, Clemson University, 2016. 

Bolden, Ethel Evangeline Martin. "Susan Dart Butler-Pioneer Librarian." Master's thesis, Atlanta University, 1959.

Lancia, Jessica Letizia. "Giving the South the Shock Treatment: Elizabeth Waring and the Civil Rights Movement." Master's thesis, College of Charleston and the Citadel, 2007. 

Further Readings:

Adams, Frank, with Miles Horton. Unearthing Seeds of Fire: The Idea of Highlander. Winston-Salem: Blair, 1975.

Baker, R. Scott. Paradoxes of Desegregation: African American Struggles for Educational Equality in Charleston, South Carolina, 1926-1972. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2006. 

Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Carawan, Guy, and Candie Carawan. Ain’t You Got a Right to the Tree of Life? The People of Johns Island, South Carolina, Their Faces, Their Words, and Their Songs. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966.

Collier-Thomas, Bettye, and V.P. Franklin, eds. Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights—Black Power Movement. New York: New York University Press, 2001.

Cotton, Dorothy F. If Your Back’s Not Bent: The Role of The Citizenship Education Program in the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Atria Books, 2012.

Crawford, Vicki L., Jacqueline Anne Rouse, and Barbara Woods, eds. Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, 1941-1965. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

Dudziak, Mary. Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Estes, Steve. Charleston in Black and White: Race and Power in the South after the Civil Rights Movement. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015. 

Gilmore, Glenda Elizabeth. Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919-1950. New York: Norton, 2008.

Holt, Thomas. Black over White: Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina during Reconstruction. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1977. 

Kantrowitz, Stephen. Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

Kluger, Richard. Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality. New York: Vintage, 1977.

Lau, Peter F. Democracy Rising: South Carolina and the Fight for Black Equality since 1865. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2006.

Mack, Kibibi Voloria C. Parlor Ladies and Ebony Drudges: African American Women, Class, and Work in a South Carolina Community. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1999. 

Meffert, John, Sherman E. Pyatt, and the Avery Research Center. Black America Series: Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia, 2000.

Rose, Willie Lee. Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment. New York: Vintage, 1967.

Simms, Lois Averetta. Profiles of African-American Females in the Low Country of South Carolina. New York: Vantage, 1995.

Sullivan, Patricia. Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996. 

Wood, Peter. Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion. New York: Norton, 1974.

Yarbrough, Tinsley E. A Passion for Justice: J. Waties Waring and Civil Rights. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Yuhl, Stephanie. A Golden Haze of Memory: The Making of Historic Charleston. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005. 


Septima P. Clark Papers, ca. 1910-ca. 1990, Lowcountry Digital Library

National Historical Publications & Records Commission Grant