For Clara: A Tribute To A Forgotten Civil Rights Pioneer8/19/2010
Known to many as the "Mother of the Civil Rights movement," Clara Luper is, perhaps, the ...
Known to many as the "Mother of the Civil Rights movement," Clara Luper is, perhaps, the most influential modern civil rights figure you've never heard of.
On August 19, 1958, The NAACP Youth Council of Oklahoma City began a series of sit-ins at segregated area lunch counters and restaurants. These sit-ins were the first in the south and went on to compel desegregation of public accommodations in southern states.
Clara Luper, a high school history teacher, and 12 members of the NAACP Youth Council, ages six to 17 including her own two children, walked into the Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City and ordered 13 Coca-Colas.
Ms. Luper discusses her inspiration for the sit-ins in her autobiography, Behold These Walls.
"I thought about my father who had died in 1957 in the Veterans' Hospital and who had never been able to sit down and eat a meal in a decent restaurant. I remembered how he used to tell us that someday he would take us to dinner and to parks and zoos. And when I asked him when was someday, he would always say, "Someday will be real soon," as tears ran down his cheeks. So my answer was, "Yes, tonight is the night. History compels us to go, and let History alone be our final judge."
Ms. Luper used her local notoriety to continue the fight for desegregation and equality in Oklahoma as a champion of integration of Oklahoma City schools. Her desire to effect change later led her to run for Senate in 1972.
At 86 years-old, Clara Luper continues to lecture on racial justice and equality.
Women are often relegated to the sidelines of history. We musn't let our foremothers be forgotten.
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