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Altadena Celebrates 200th Birthday of Ellen Garrison Clark

Published on Friday, November 10, 2023 | 6:22 am
 

On Saturday, Nov. 18, a special event will mark the 200th birthday celebration of Ellen Garrison Clark, a remarkable 19th-century African American activist and the granddaughter of slaves. 

The commemoration will take place at the Mountain View Mortuary Sunrise Chapel, located at 2400 N. Fair Oaks Ave. in Altadena, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Hosted by the Altadena Historical Society, The Questers, All Saints Church Racial Justice Ministry, and Mountain View Mortuary, the event promises to be a significant historical program. Attendees will witness the unveiling of newly laid headstones for Harry Clark (1820-1897), Ellen Garrison’s second husband, and her sister Susan Garrison-Johnson (1813-1897). 

“We are celebrating Ellen Garrison Clark’s 200th birthday by honoring her family members,” a statement from the Altadena Historical Society said. “Their legacy is our story and is our history. We must remember and honor our history.” 

A light lunch will be served following the program and the unveiling of these historic headstones.

Ellen Garrison Clark was a pioneering civil rights activist who was born in 1823. She was the grandchild of slaves and became the first person to challenge the nation’s first Civil Rights Act in court in 1866. Her journey took her from Concord, Massachusetts, to her work with various abolitionist campaigns and her dedicated teaching career at American Missionary Schools during the Reconstruction era in the South.

Ellen Garrison’s commitment to civil rights was unwavering. In 1866, almost a century before Rosa Parks made history on an Alabama bus, Garrison sat in a segregated waiting room at a Baltimore train station and was forcibly ejected. She believed it was her duty to test the new law, stating, “I feel as though I ought to strive to maintain my rights… it will be a stand for others….”

Despite the challenges of the post-Reconstruction South, Garrison continued to teach and inspire others. Her teaching post was defunded, but she followed the Kansas Exodusters in 1879 to teach newly freed people. After a decade in Kansas, she moved with her family to Pasadena, where she is buried alongside other antislavery activists.

Ellen Garrison Clark’s legacy remains an enduring source of inspiration for those who advocate for civil rights and equality today. This event offers a unique opportunity to honor her life and contributions as she reaches her 200th birthday.

To RSVP for the commemoration, click this link, fill up the online form and click Submit. 

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