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Juneteenth


Photo by Nati Harnik/AP

Wednesday is a national holiday...Juneteenth! This is not going to be a list of holiday events because a quick online search produces an impressive calendar full of options to help you celebrate.


Want to learn about the symbolism of the Juneteenth flag? CNN put one together a couple of years ago: https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/17/us/juneteenth-flag-meaning-explainer-cec/index.html


Let's look at a woman whose life and name (via her father) originated slavery. She actively pushed her life forward despite discrimination and adversity to quietly and consistently fuel the Civil Rights Movement through education.


Do You Know Septima Poinsette Clark?


Septima Poinsette Clark, Bob Fitch photography archive, Stanford University Libraries. https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/clark-septima-poinsette

As an educator and civil rights advocate, Martin Luther King Jr. warmly dubbed her the "Mother of the Movement" for her key role in educating people through literacy workshops so they could actively participate in citizenship.


Clark had to fight for her own education from a very young age, and her formal education continued even as she began teaching. Stanford's King Institute biography on Clark details just a small fraction of her influence on the Civil Rights Movement.


"...in 1956, Clark had already begun to conduct workshops during her summer vacations at the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, a grassroots education center dedicated to social justice. Rosa Parks participated in one of Clark’s workshops just months before she helped launch the  Montgomery bus boycott. After losing her teaching position, Myles Horton hired Clark full time as Highlander’s director of workshops. Believing that literacy and political empowerment are inextricably linked, Clark taught people basic literacy skills, their rights and duties as U.S. citizens, and how to fill out voter registration forms. 
"When the state of Tennessee forced Highlander to close in 1961, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) established the Citizenship Education Program (CEP), modeled on Clark’s citizenship workshops. Clark became SCLC’s director of education and teaching, conducting teacher training and developing curricula."

Click to read Stanford's King Institute's full biography on Septima Poinsette Clark. It is a handy overview if you have only a little time to read.


Click to read Encyclopedia Britannica's Clark biography to get a few more details about her early life and the educational hurdles she experienced.


Click to read Wikipedia's for a deep dive into Clark's life. Despite this deep dive, there are a couple of details not included in it that are in the others.



Who Carries on Clark's Work Today?

This is a question addressed in the article "7 Modern Black Civil Rights Leaders Making History," written by Danielle Hess June 13, 2024 for fair360.com. Her article opens:


As we commemorate Juneteenth, a pivotal moment in our nation’s history marking the end of slavery, we reflect on the enduring struggle for civil rights that began over 65 years ago with Rosa Parks’ arrest on a segregated Montgomery bus. This act sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a cornerstone event led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which ignited the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ‘60s in the United States.
Juneteenth itself is a symbol of freedom and a reminder that the struggle for civil rights has deep roots in American history. It is a day to reflect on the progress made and the work that remains. Additionally, the legacies of Parks, Dr. King and numerous other civil rights champions are enshrined in the fabric of American society. Their pursuit of justice and equality has shaped the nation’s conscience and legal framework.

Hess notes there are "thousands of modern Black civil rights leaders making powerful changes" but as you read through the short biographies of the individuals she has listed, you will hear the echos of Clark's work and the work of so many others.


Enjoy your Juneteenth celebrations!

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