Ms. Clark was an educator and civil rights activist. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called her “The Mother of the Movement.” She began her career as a teacher on John’s Island, one of South Carolina’s sea islands. Later, she studied with W.E.B. DuBois while in graduate school. She joined the NAACP and fought for the right of Black principals to be hired by the Charleston public schools, and for the equalization of pay for Black and white teachers. In 1956, Ms. Clark became vice president of the Charleston NAACP. Also in 1956, South Carolina made it illegal for city or state employees to join civil rights organizations. Ms. Clark refused to resign her membership in the NAACP, and after 40 years of teaching, she lost her job and her pension. She was hired as full-time director of workshops at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, where she taught basic literacy, including how to fill out voter registration forms. She also recruited teachers and students, including Ms. Rosa Parks. Ms. Clark established “Citizenship Schools” for adults throughout the Deep South, teaching literacy, self-pride, cultural pride, and citizenship rights. Her goal was to empower her students, and to develop grassroots leaders for the civil rights movement. After the Citizenship Schools project was transferred to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the project trained over 10,000 teachers who led Citizenship Schools across the South. Due to Ms. Clark’s efforts, 700,000 Black citizens became registered voters before 1969. Ms. Clark became the first woman on the SCLC board, and became SCLC’s director of education. Later in life, she fought to have her back salary and pension reinstated, and won. Ms. Clark wrote two autobiographies, Echo In My Soul and Ready From Within.
Sanguine Fromage, WERU radio personality since 2005, current host of UpFront Soul, former host of The Nightfly, Off the Wall, Enjoy Yourself, and Sound Travels.
all original content on this site copyright Susan Dickson-Smith 2015-2021