Women’s History Month: Faye Clarke

Faye Clarke
Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

Born: April 6, 1931 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas 

Bio: Faye Clarke co-founded the Educate the Children Foundation, which was created to support rural and impoverished school districts with donations of books and other educational materials. 

In high school, she was an Arkansas National Merit Scholar and went on to study at Hampton Institute in Virginia. After graduation, she attended a one-year program in businesses at Radcliffe College taught by professors of the Harvard Business School, where women were not yet allowed; she was the first African American woman in this program.

She began working at Aramark, a company that provides food, facility, and uniform services, eventually becoming a regional vice president. In her work for Aramark, Clarke frequently traveled through the South, often accompanied by her husband after his retirement, and the two of them became aware of the many structural inequalities facing children in lower-income school districts. After Clarke retired in 1991, the couple used most of her $300,000 retirement fund to establish the Alabama-Mississippi Education Improvement Project, with Clarke as executive director. This was renamed the Educate the Children Foundation in 1993. The goal of the foundation was to locate books and other materials for school districts deprived of the means to secure such for themselves. 

Faye and Frank Clarke received the President’s Service Award from President Bill Clinton in 1996, and the following year they received the National Caring Award. Faye was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2002.

You can learn more about the life of Faye Clarke at the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.