Celebration of Altadena Antislavery Leader: Ellen Garrison Clark (1823-1892)

Posted June 14, 2021
By Asha Smith

Headstone to be laid on her unmarked grave at Mountain View Cemetery on June 19.

Do you know the name, Ellen Garrison Clark? Ellen Garrison Clark was an African American woman, antislavery activist, civil rights advocate, and educator in Altadena and is buried at the Altadena Mountain View Cemetery. How could you know? She’s been buried there without a headstone since 1892. 

Mrs. Clark was the direct descendant of freed slaves; her father was a runaway slave, her mother was the daughter of a freed slave, and her family was deeply involved with civil rights activists in Concord, MA.   Believing that it was her duty to “elevate her own race,” she spent 25 years teaching in the Freedmen’s Schools in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Kansas.  She spent her life fighting for civil rights for Blacks in America. Long before Rosa Parks, Mrs. Clark tested the Civil Rights Act of 1866 by suing a Baltimore Train Station after being forcibly removed from a segregated ladies’ waiting room. Her case was eventually dismissed by a Maryland grand jury. There is so much more to learn about her life and contributions, including at this link:  https://robbinshouse.org/wp-content/uploads/Meet-Ellen-Garrison-PROOF.pdf.    We all stand on her shoulders.

Mrs. Clark made the education of Blacks and our civil rights her mission in life. She spent the final years of her life in the Altadena/Pasadena area teaching Blacks to read and write. On December 21, 1892, Mrs. Clark died and was laid to rest at Mountain View Cemetery.  Her grave is there today without a headstone to mark the life of this tremendous woman. The Altadena Historical Society and the African Community of family and friends have worked together to celebrate Ms. Clark on June 19, 2021 (Juneteenth) by laying a headstone on her grave.

Mrs. Clark was known to say:  "WE MUST LIFT AS WE CLIMB."

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