Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Septima Poinsette Clark, July 25, 1976. Interview G-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Charleston NAACP lobbies for the hiring of more black teachers

Clark and the other NAACP members successfully lobbied to get the city of Charleston to hire black teachers. They did so on behalf of black parents and to give black students teachers who were more likely to support them in cases of unjust treatment.

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

I was sort of surprised that the Board of Aldermen gave in so quickly to your request and begin hiring black teachers.
Oh, that thing had been coming a long time, but we hadn't gotten to the place where we felt as if we could get the signatures before. And when Tom E. Miller, President of the State College, told us that we needed to get signatures, we had a black principal at Avery at that time. Mr. Cox had come from Nashville, Tennessee, and you can imagine the controversy we had about going out and doing this. It was hard for him to see it, too, but we decided that we would do it.
The principal was opposed to your doing it?
Yes. And so the older teachers wouldn't get into anything like that. But I didn't have many friends. [laughter] And I took my students along with me, and we got these signatures. Some would be across the street, and then I'd do it on the other side, and that's how we did it.
Prior to this time, had people been going to the mayor and talking to him about this and trying to negotiate and convince the . . .
Yes. We had an artist here-his name was Edwin Halston-Edwin Halston was the president of the local NAACP. And he was very much disturbed with the fact that they couldn't have any black teachers teaching their children. So Edwin Halston had a meeting and I attended that meeting, and he told us what we could do. And I guess he had gotten that information fromState College. And this is what we did. We followed his advice. I'll tell you another reason why I think they gave a glowing example that night at that meeting. People didn't have Frigidairesthen; there were iceboxes. And there was a fellow carrying ice, and he took ice on King Street to a woman who lived upstairs over a meat market. And she lost a watch, and she thought that this boy who brought the ice up took her watch. And so she had this boy arrested. And when her clothes came back from the laundry, the watch had gone to the laundry. She was honest enough to tell it, though, and when that happened Edwin Halston got a group of people together and asked her to make restorations to this boy. Because he said that when this fellow went to school, children would be teasing him about being arrested, and he was arrested falsely. And so that became a big thing, and the newspaper carried an account of it, also. And from that we got to the place where we felt that we needed to have black teachers teaching in the schools, because that was quite an injustice. I can remember that too well.