Freedom's Teacher

The Life of Septima Clark

By Katherine Mellen Charron

480 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 31 illus., 5 tables, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7222-2
    Published: February 2012
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8038-3
    Published: November 2009
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9846-8
    Published: November 2009

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Awards & distinctions

2010 Julia Cherry Spruill Prize, Southern Association for Women Historians

2010 George C. Rogers Jr. Book Award, South Carolina Historical Society

In the mid-1950s, Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987), a former public school teacher, developed a citizenship training program that enabled thousands of African Americans to register to vote and then to link the power of the ballot to concrete strategies for individual and communal empowerment. In this vibrantly written biography, Katherine Charron demonstrates Clark's crucial role--and the role of many black women teachers--in making education a cornerstone of the twentieth-century freedom struggle. Using Clark's life as a lens, Charron sheds valuable new light on southern black women's activism in national, state, and judicial politics, from the Progressive Era to the civil rights movement and beyond.

About the Author

Katherine Mellen Charron is associate professor of history at North Carolina State University. She is coeditor of William Henry Singleton's Recollections of My Slavery Days.
For more information about Katherine Mellen Charron, visit the Author Page.


"Freedom's Teacher is the product of a 12-year research journey, the result of which is extensive and meticulously organized. . . . Charron vividly brings [Clark's] life and times to the fore."--The Charleston Post and Courier

"The crucial role played by Septima Poinsette Clark and other African-American women has been written back into the story of the civil rights movement."--The Pilot

“A carefully researched and beautifully written study that absorbs the reader from the first paragraph. . . . An engaging synthesis of the major events and personalities of twentieth-century South Carolina. . . . An essential text for students of educational history, women’s history, and the civil rights movement.”--North Carolina Historical Review

"Deeply researched and engaging. . . . Charron's richly suggestive biography of Septima Clark will surely stimulate more work on the African American women who made the possibilities of the movement realities."--Journal of American History

"[A] deft narrative. . . . A compelling story about someone whose name may not be included as a leader in the civil rights movement but certainly should be."--Journal of Southern History

“A beautifully written and meticulously researched biography. . . . An essential addition to the growing number of biographies of black women educators and activists….It challenges us to broaden our understanding of the development of the civil rights era, the definition of civil rights leadership, and the role of education in laying the foundation for protest and social justice in the twentieth century.”--American Historical Review