Working on Avery’s Oral History Collection for the past few months has probably taught me more history about the Lowcountry region and the Civil Rights Movement than any other educational source. So today, I want to share with you a tiny part of an interview with Septima Poinsette Clark that was recorded in 1982, which struck me for various reasons. It is fascinating to hear this lady -– the Grandmother of the Civil Rights Movement –- talk about her family history and her upbringing on Henrietta Street. (Did you know that Charleston is actually more residentially segregated today than it ever was?)
I’m sure most of you have heard of Ms. Clark, who is an alumna of the Avery Normal Institute, in the context of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and her alliance with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Some of you may also know that she actually got banned from teaching in Charleston in 1956 because she was a member of the NAACP — two years after the Supreme Court ruled Brown vs. the Board of Education unconstitutional!
But what really caught my attention in this oral history was Ms. Clark recounting her first teaching experience on John’s Island. Back in 1916, it actually took a nine-hour boat ride through the creeks, depending on the tide, to get to the island from Charleston since there were no bridges. Can you imagine?