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Teaching Fellows Place Marker at Septima Clark Birthplace on Campus

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | April 24, 2018 | No Comment |

Thanks to the leadership of C of C students, a new historic marker identifying the birthplace of educator and Civil Rights activist Septima Clark will be unveiled at 105 Wentworth Street on May 3. This past week I spoke about the project with Alexis (Aly) Lain, a C of C junior who’s double majoring in English and Secondary Education. Aly and other Teaching Fellows have been working since Fall 2016 to make this happen.

How did you learn about Septima Clark? What gave you the idea of putting up a marker?

Aly Lain

I first learned about Septima Clark when I was in my Foundations of Education 201 class. That class was a lot of fun because I’m in Teaching Fellows and my whole Teaching Fellows cohort was in that class taught by Dr. Hale. When we were looking at the foundations of education, we focused on South Carolina education, and as we were going through the timeline and we reached the Civil Rights era, we started talking about Septima Clark. And Dr. Hale first mentioned that she was born at 105 Wentworth Street which was right around the corner, but there was no marker or anything there for her, and as soon as he said that, he kept going on with the lesson, but someone’s hand went up and said “Wait, what do you mean there’s nothing there?” We were all just so shocked and surprised, and so we talked about that for a few minutes, the way there’s so many people, Clark included, whose names and stories get forgotten.

City Paper photo of Aly and Ridge at a rally in January, speaking about taking inspiration from Septima Clark

After class I remember going into our Teaching Fellows lounge and one of my best friends, Ridgeland, was there, and he said, “Aly, you know, I think we could do it. I was looking it up and I think we could do a marker if we wanted to.” So we got all excited and we called someone, right then and there, Dr. Foley at the South Carolina Historical Society in Columbia. We asked him what would be needed to put up a marker, and told him how wanted to honor Septima, and he seemed interested; he encouraged us. It just became important to us, this woman who was born so close to the Education Center, whose name we see on a street sign, to do something more for her on our campus, something she deserved.

What have you learned from Septima Clark, and what do you want other people to know about her?

I think one thing that draws me to Septima so much is that not only did she serve the Civil Rights movement—in everything she did, she was an asset–but she was also an enabler, an encourager. She did go out and do things, but she also taught others how to follow her, with her work in voter registration and Folk Schools. She was opening up doors for the people around her. It was all about bringing this community forward to make a change.

Aly and Ridge say this is one of their favorite photos of Septima Clark. (Septima Clark Papers, Avery Research Center)

This is one of my favorite quotes from her: “I just tried to create a little chaos. Chaos is a good thing. God created the world out of it. Change is what comes of it.” I just love the fact that she was trying to disrupt this system that was constructed against her from the very start. Just make a little chaos, make a little change.

How did you get the funding for this marker?

We started the first semester of my sophomore year (Fall 2016). The rest of our Teaching Fellows—the way we all rallied together for this project was just astounding and so heartwarming. We first had to collect donations for an initial deposit and send in a draft of our proposal, the text of the marker. Once the idea of the marker was approved officially, that’s when we started the real-deal fundraising, because we were looking at around two thousand dollars. We did a percentage night at Chipotle, raising over $800 at that event, and we also had a lot of different donations. Ms. Jennifer Dane, whom Dr. Hale had met at a conference in Ohio, learned about our project and she was somehow inspired by us (which is in turn inspiring, it’s very cool how these things always inspire people and then you’re inspired, back and forth). She gave us a wonderful donation that allowed us to get that last bit for the marker itself. Also, we’ve been working on a portrait [of Septima Clark] by Jonathan Green. To fund that portrait, our community has really contributed, in a way that’s been very kind.

What’s the significance of Jonathan Green doing the portrait?

In my opinion, there are few people who capture Charleston as well as Jonathan Green does. He really tries to capture Gullah culture—he’s trying to tell the story of people whose stories might not have been recognized and to paint them in a way that represents the creativity and the vitality that they exhibit.

C of C Teaching Fellows, F 2017

Nice work, y’all!

Join Aly and other Teaching Fellows for the unveiling of the historic marker at 105 Wentworth Street. Thursday, May 3, 10 am.



under: African American Studies, Charleston History, Historic Buildings, Markers, Social Activism in the South, Students, Uncategorized

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