Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement

By Bettye Collier-Thomas; V. P. Franklin | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

“We Seek to Know… in Order to
Speak the Truth”
Nurturing the Seeds of Discontent—Séptima P. Clark
and Participatory Leadership1

Jacqueline A. Rouse

I believe “Social Justice” is not a matter of money but
of will, not a problem for the economist but a task for
the patriot, requiring leadership and community ac-
tion rather than investment.2

—Septima P. Clark

In a eulogy presented at the funeral of Septima Poinsette Clark, the Reverend Joseph E. Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), described the importance of Clark's work and her relationship to the SCLC. Reverend Lowery asserted that “her courageous and pioneering efforts in the area of citizenship education and interracial cooperation won her SCLC's highest award, the Drum Major for Justice award.” In a similar vein, the Reverend C. T. Vivian, a former SCLC leader who had worked with Clark and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., remarked that “she understood that if we could break through the illiteracy, we could break into mainstream America.”3

For sixty years, Septima Poinsette Clark dedicated her life to the cause of universal literacy, voter registration, women's rights, and civil rights. Without formal title or formally recognized leadership, Clark fought on many different fronts at the same time, and successfully

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