The Oklahoma State Senate approved a resolution Friday recognizing Aug. 19, 2008 as the 50th anniversary of the sit-in movement that began in Oklahoma City at Katz Drug Store. The resolution also honors the life and legacy of local civil rights pioneer Mrs. Clara Luper and all those who participated in that first peaceful and non-violent demonstration 50 years ago.
Senate Resolution 102 is authored by Sen. Constance N. Johnson, D-Oklahoma County. A copy of the resolution will be distributed to Mrs. Luper, the NAACP Youth Council in Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma History Center.
On Aug. 19, 1958, Mrs. Luper, sponsor of the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council, with the help and support of many prominent citizens of Northeast Oklahoma City, led a group of 13 NAACP Youth Council members to the popular downtown OKC drug store where they refused service pursuant to the segregation policies of the era. This began the sit-in movement that eventually led to desegregation throughout the South. As a result of the Oklahoma City sit-in, Katz Drug Stores subsequently desegregated their lunch counters in all 38 stores in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa. This historic non-violent event was the model for successful civil rights demonstrations that followed nationwide.
Mrs. Luper continued her pioneering civil rights efforts that led to the desegregation of Oklahoma City Public Schools and public accommodations in Tulsa and Lawton, and successful organization of the Oklahoma City sanitation workers strike.
Sen. Johnson called Mrs. Luper a “true role model” for her courage and determination in taking a leadership stand in the struggle for civil rights that would change the landscape of this nation.
“Mrs. Clara Luper is widely regarded by many as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Sen. Johnson said. “Her life experiences inspired her to try to make a difference. Because of her efforts and through her collaboration with many other great Oklahoma City leaders, we were able to peacefully change the segregationist policies of not just Katz Drug Store, but a state and a nation. A school teacher by training and experience, Mrs. Luper taught a city, state and nation that non-violent activism is the positive way to change.”
Sen. Johnson added “The positive change that came from that experience 50 years ago will benefit untold generations to come. The determination and the perseverance of the participants in the Katz Drug Store sit-in can never be overstated. It was a path that was difficult but necessary to get us to where we are today. It’s truly appropriate that today the Oklahoma State Senate recognizes Mrs. Luper, the Katz Drug Store sit-in participants, and Oklahoma City’s prominent leaders of the day. This recognition is also a necessary step in the right direction for the work that remains to be done on civil rights issues in this state and nation.”