“An extraordinary human being, Peg Leg Bates has never boasted or sought self-pity. He grew up in the rural, segregated South. He lost his leg and had no education. Yet he educated himself and became one of the world’s greatest dancers. He never considered himself handicapped.”
~ South Carolina African American History Calendar
On October 10, 1907 in Fountain Inn, South Carolina, Rufus and Emma Bates (née Stewart) welcomed a son; they named him Clayton. Rufus abandoned their family, leaving Emma to rear Clayton in the rural community. Working as a sharecropper, she struggled to survive.
Typical of many children, Clayton loved to dance. However, five-year old Clayton had begun dancing on the streets in order to collect monies to help support their family. Soon his dancing gave way to jobs of labor that many African-American boys undertook. This work included toiling in tasks such as harvesting and plowing, upon farms and in preparing raw materials at mills.