Paintings & Drawings

Septima Clark, Drawing from 2012 by Ciana Pullen; Dimensions: 16 inches × 20 inches × 0 inch; Materials: Charcoal on Paper; Description: Civil rights legend Septima Poinsette Clark (1898 – 1987) began as a teacher in a small African American school on Johns Island near Charleston, SC. Because she was black she was not allowed to teach in Charleston, but while teaching in Johns Island she developed ways of using everyday materials such as catalogs to teach literacy. Outraged by massive discrepencies in pay and supplies for Black teachers and schools, Clark sued and won an important legal victory for Black educators to be eligible to be principals in any Charleston public school. In the extreme backlash that followed she was fired and ostracized by whites and apprehensive fellow Black educators. Because Jim Crow laws prevented illiterate citizens from voting, Clark began organizing short 1- and 2-week courses that were designed to be taught with minimal resources, often hidden in back rooms of shops because of the threat of racial violence, with the goal of passing voting literacy tests and setting foundations for communities to further their own learning. By 1969 Clark's program helped to register over 700,000 people to vote, including Rosa Parks just months before the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott. Clark became the first woman appointed a leadership position in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, but she would struggle with sexism from within the civil rights movement, speaking out against it and retiring from the organization in 1970. She then sued for back payment and pensions from her job with the Charleston Public School System and won, going on to serve two terms on the Charleston County School Board. She was awarded a Living Legacy Award by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Portrait drawn from several photographs. © Ciana Pullen 2012
Septima Clark, Drawing by Ciana Pullen,   Charcoal on Paper, 16 inches × 20 inches × 0 inch.

Civil rights legend Septima Poinsette Clark (1898 – 1987) began as a teacher in a small African American school on Johns Island near Charleston, SC. Because she was black she was not allowed to teach in Charleston, but while teaching in Johns Island she developed ways of using everyday materials such as catalogs to teach literacy. Outraged by massive discrepencies in pay and supplies for Black teachers and schools, Clark sued and won an important legal victory for Black educators to be eligible to be principals in any Charleston public school. In the extreme backlash that followed she was fired and ostracized by whites and apprehensive fellow Black educators. Because Jim Crow laws prevented illiterate citizens from voting, Clark began organizing short 1- and 2-week courses that were designed to be taught with minimal resources, often hidden in back rooms of shops because of the threat of racial violence, with the goal of passing voting literacy tests and setting foundations for communities to further their own learning. By 1969 Clark’s program helped to register over 700,000 people to vote, including Rosa Parks just months before the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott. Clark became the first woman appointed a leadership position in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, but she would struggle with sexism from within the civil rights movement, speaking out against it and retiring from the organization in 1970. She then sued for back payment and pensions from her job with the Charleston Public School System and won, going on to serve two terms on the Charleston County School Board. She was awarded a Living Legacy Award by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Portrait drawn from several photographs.

Ciana Pullen 2012
Denmark Vesey, Drawing from 2012 by Ciana Pullen; Dimensions: 16 inches × 20 inches × 0 inch; Materials: Charcoal on Paper; Description: When I ran across Denmark Vessey in local Charleston history, I had a chance to really delve into researching this relatively little-known figure of staggering historical importance. Sold as a teen to a Caribbean slave trader, he was taken on as an informal apprentice and friend. He learned to read and write and navigate at sea. When his owner settled in Charleston, Vessey happened to win a street lottery and used it to purchase his own freedom. Just as the nation's first Black congregations were forming in the North, Vessey helped to found one of the earliest Black churches in the South, in open resistance to White Protestant authority. He became the most notorious figure in the US when, in 1821, he was put on trial for orchestrating what would have been the largest slave uprising in US history. Had three slaves not informed authorities just days before the uprising was planned, an estimated 10,000 slaves and Black people would allegedly have marched through Charleston, killing White people and setting fire to the city, before sailing to freedom in Haiti, which had recently caught the world's attention when a slave rebellion successfully demolished white colonial rule. Driven by fear of a spreading spirit of global slave revolt, Charleston authorites kept all aspects of the trial secret, erasing as all images and legacy of Vessey. His church was closed, but re-opened and still exists today. Tragically, Emanuel AME church made headlines again in 2014 when it was targeted by a white supremacist who murdered 6 congregants during a service on the aniversary of Vessey's would-be uprising. His trial and execution forever changed the course of slavery legislation and free Black society. Since no images of Vessey remain, this portrait is how I imagine he may have looked. For the full story of this fascinating man and a snapshot of a bizarre time in Charlestonian society, please read the full essay I've written [here](http://cianapullen.blogspot.de/2014/02/denmark-vesey-born-telemaque.html?utm_source=BP_featured). © Ciana Pullen 2012
Denmark Vesey, Drawing by Ciana Pullen,   Charcoal on Paper, 16 inches × 20 inches × 0 inch.

When I ran across Denmark Vessey in local Charleston history, I had a chance to really delve into researching this relatively little-known figure of staggering historical importance. Sold as a teen to a Caribbean slave trader, he was taken on as an informal apprentice and friend. He learned to read and write and navigate at sea. When his owner settled in Charleston, Vessey happened to win a street lottery and used it to purchase his own freedom. Just as the nation’s first Black congregations were forming in the North, Vessey helped to found one of the earliest Black churches in the South, in open resistance to White Protestant authority. He became the most notorious figure in the US when, in 1821, he was put on trial for orchestrating what would have been the largest slave uprising in US history. Had three slaves not informed authorities just days before the uprising was planned, an estimated 10,000 slaves and Black people would allegedly have marched through Charleston, killing White people and setting fire to the city, before sailing to freedom in Haiti, which had recently caught the world’s attention when a slave rebellion successfully demolished white colonial rule. Driven by fear of a spreading spirit of global slave revolt, Charleston authorites kept all aspects of the trial secret, erasing as all images and legacy of Vessey. His church was closed, but re-opened and still exists today. Tragically, Emanuel AME church made headlines again in 2014 when it was targeted by a white supremacist who murdered 6 congregants during a service on the aniversary of Vessey’s would-be uprising. His trial and execution forever changed the course of slavery legislation and free Black society. Since no images of Vessey remain, this portrait is how I imagine he may have looked. For the full story of this fascinating man and a snapshot of a bizarre time in Charlestonian society, please read the full essay I’ve written here.

Ciana Pullen 2012