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Freedom's Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark Hardcover – November 15, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


As a lyrical and moving account of an influential activist, this biography is unrivaled.--Journal of American Studies

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

In Charron's capable hands, [Septima] Clark's life has at long last received the full-length attention it deserves.--Oral History Review

More than a biography.--Oral History Review

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

Charron's stunning, eminently readable writing style pulls the reader in from the outset with opening lines that approach synesthesia. . . . Any biographers would find this work amazing and a worthy addition to their libraries. Any historian of the civil rights movements would be well suited to pick this up as background and context for understanding a leader and pioneer. A general reader would not be put off by academic prose or overreliance on either citations or notations.--H-Net Reviews

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

[In this] comprehensive and thoroughly engrossing biography. . . . Katherine Charron artfully presents the full breadth of the life and career of Septima Clark.--Journal of African American History

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 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

[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

This biography will enlighten anyone interested in the black freedom struggle, the classic phase of the civil rights movement, and women's history.--Tennessee Historical Review


When Martin Luther King Jr. received his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, he insisted that Septima Clark accompany him to Stockholm. King recognized the critical role Clark played in the civil rights movement. Perhaps more effectively than anyone else, Clark blended legal and direct action. In this important contribution to the history of the civil rights movement, Charron presents a powerful and moving portrait of Septima Clark and highlights some of the ways African American women defined the role of citizenship schools. Charron offers a fresh perspective and challenges our understanding of this critical period. Remarkable for its precision, intelligence, and heart, this thoughtful narrative demonstrates the enormous diversity of the movement.--Orville Vernon Burton, Burroughs Chair of Southern History and Culture, Coastal Carolina University

|A compelling story, beautifully written, Freedom's Teacher traces a life that intersected with key elements and players in the unfolding civil rights movement. Charron's powerful work also demonstrates the ways in which Septima Clark drew on rich traditions in black history to influence and shape her people's quest for freedom and social justice.--Elizabeth Jacoway, author of Turn Away Thy Son: Little Rock, the Crisis That Shocked the Nation

|Freedom's Teacher is at once an intimate biography of a civil rights leader and a sweeping reconsideration of the civil rights era. By placing the schoolhouse alongside the church as a key site of struggle, bringing to visibility a hidden history of black women's educational activism, and demonstrating the subtle interplay of race and gender, Katherine Charron allows us to see both women's leadership and the freedom struggle in a revelatory new light.--Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1st edition (November 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807833320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807833322
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,237,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Komozi Woodard on July 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At last the life of Septima Clark, the pioneer in education for liberation, has found the historian worthy of the subject! Katherine Charron is a gifted historian who has rediscovered the rich legacy of Septima Clark and the Citizenship Schools. In her brilliant hands, Septima Clark teaches us once again!

Some might forget that the model for the liberation schools and freedom schools were the grassroots Citizenship Schools on the Sea Islands of South Carolina. If we talk about education for liberation, then we need to understand its roots in the mass movements in American history for self-education, a demand that exploded from below. Like most of the great mass movements in the Black Revolt, the Civil Rights movement was a revolutionary school in that great tradition of grassroots abolitionism, Garveyism, African Blood Brotherhoods, New Negro Radicalism, Black Feminism, Institutes for Positive Education, Uhuru Sasa Schools, Chad Schools, African Free Schools, the Algebra Project and so forth. In that Black Radical Tradition, Black Power and the Black Arts movement built on that foundation of self-emancipation.

Furthermore, Professor Charron teaches us that Septima Clark's work for self-emancipation interwove women's emancipation into the fabric of black liberation. Septima Clark was one of the master teachers of the 20th century!

Read this book: order copies for your study group; set up workshops in your library and community centers. Discuss it in church. You have all that you need: time, space and will. Organize yourselves: arm yourselves with knowledge or harm yourselves with ignorance! Make the right choice.

Komozi Woodard
Africana Studies
Sarah Lawrence College
Bronxville, New York
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ella Jo on November 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Freedom's Teacher is beautiful. A vigorously researched, lushly written, biography of African American educator and activist Septima Poinsette Clark, the book serves to enrich our understanding of the black freedom struggle and the classic phase of the civil rights movement.

If Clark had only developed the citizenship schools for SCLC (later transferred to SNCC), she would stand among the giants of the civil rights movement. But, as Katherine Charron makes clear, Clark's involvement in the movement of the 1960s came after a lifetime spent fighting for African American's and women's rights. Indeed, for Clark, the two struggles were inseparable, and both were about as much about personal transformation--becoming empowered--as they were about citizenship--becoming enfranchised.

Like Barbara Ransby's biography of Ella Baker, Freedom's Teacher spurs readers to reconsider the periodization, the actors, and the aims of the civil rights movement. More importantly, and more inspiringly, the focus on black women's activism through education reminds us that even in the most crushing days of Jim Crow, African American women continued to build the tools that would secure their freedom.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DHardimon on October 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ms. Clark is a name not often heard but definitely should be. She is a game changer in the civil rights movement and therefore the history of this country. Ms. Charron research is thorough having done her doctoral thesis on her life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
forgotten figure of civil rights. The women were pushed to the background and they formed their own networks
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joan Crane on May 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Thank you very much. I cetainly will look forward to doing more business with you in the near future. Joan
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