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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 25, 1976. Interview G-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Clark learned from her father's optimistic approach to problems

Clark compares her parents' attitudes about poverty and discrimination. She prefers her father's easygoing approach to problems in life, though she knows they bothered him.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 25, 1976. Interview G-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you like your father better than you did your mother?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
I did. Now I don't think that. . . . My sister up here, I always say to her that she stayed in the bed with my mother so long that she's my mother all over.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that right?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
She doesn't see changes in people, she always figured that "If I can do a thing, you can do it." So she's more to me like my mother than anybody else. But I never could go along with her in many things, although I couldn't come out and say it to her because she would really get me. I knew that I couldn't . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you want to be like your father rather than . . .
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
More so, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was he like? What did you admire about him?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
His easygoing way and his wonderful non-violent spirit of not wanting to. And I liked the idea, when I got sense enough to know, of him wanting me to learn to read and write. See, he couldn't; .
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did it make him feel when your mother talked about the way that he couldn't support her?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
When she would say things like this to him, most of the time he would say, "Vicky, a hundred years from today you'll never know the difference, and none of those things will make any sense." And he was so right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you think it really didn't bother him?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes, I think it bothered him. I think it bothered him because he couldn't get the kind of money that would have helped him to support his wife better. And I understand that they used to, in the early days, go out and go to parties and things, and she was a great dancer and that they had good times. And then after all these children came, she never did go anywhere. For a long time she didn't even want to go to church, because she didn't have the kind of clothes that she wanted to wear.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you know that it bothered him? Did you have a sense of how your father felt?
SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK:
Yes. I think that, sitting down, reminiscing quite a bit, he would talk about the things that he used to do, and he would wonder about "When will we ever be able to do these things again?" And if he didn't have money enough to buy a number of things that we needed, he would talk about he hated that. So I knew that he felt the fact that he wasn't able to make the kind of money that he needed to make. I can remember her singing those blues so well, talking about the things that she had, she'd never have anymore. She hated it very much. But she did get to the place where she could have everything that she wanted. And my brother got up and was working, and I was working, and there were two others teaching. And I bought a house and I had it repaired, down on Henrietta Street, and the night that we had the opening, oh, she was most jubilant. A lady came and took her out to a movie, and when she came back all these people were there. And it was her birthday, October 25th; I never will forget it.