Activism of Septima Clark: The Necessity of Education as the Cornerstone of Freedom

Septima Clark shared the same social, economic, and segregated background as other black community members. American cultural memory of women in the Civil Rights Movement continues to be a problem with female leaders being conveniently left out of historiography. She had to constantly struggle to be heard, yet her struggle and her sacrifice have been forgotten in the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. Illiteracy, she argued, was at the core of racial inequities. She didn’t just teach the Black community how to read and write; she used daily experiences to show them how justified self-sufficiency was worthy of their aspirations. In this presentation, former SRJC student, current University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign Ed.M. candidate Sabrina Rawson will argue that for Septima Clark, education was a necessary cornerstone of political and legislative freedom; however, gendered ideas about activism—both then and now—have kept her significant contributions from being recognized. Education was the foundation of the Civil Rights Movement and Septima Clark was their champion.