OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It was August 19, 1958.
Clara Luper and 13 kids from the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council ordered up peaceful protest at a Katz Drug Store in Oklahoma City.
The goal was to do away with discrimination over lunch:
Marilyn Luper Hildreth : ” We were accustomed to hearing it. No. No, you’re not going to be free. No, you’re not going to get this job. No, you’re not going to go to this school. No, you’re not going to the restaurant. No, you’re not going to the water fountain. Somewhere on the inside we said, ‘this is not so’.”
The group staged their sit-in at the lunch counter; it was a three-day effort Marilyn Luper Hildreth, Clara Luper’s daughter, said was never about the food:
Marilyn Luper Hildreth : “A group of young people, not knowing what they were going to face went down to a drugstore in Oklahoma City called Katz so that we could have a hamburger and a coke just like anybody else in America.”
Members of the Clara Luper Legacy Committee told News 4 the fight for equal rights centered on non-violent protest, and it was a practice fine-tuned by Ms. Luper.
Garland Pruitt: “Our soldier, our warrior , our leader Mother Luper took on that task and mastered it. [They] didn’t have the dogs or the hoses set on them here but they’d waste coffee on you, talk crazy to you, step on your foot, spit on you, but they overcame that.”
In the end, the Katz campaign helped desegregate lunch counters across the Katz Drug Store chain in several states, and sparked a movement in OKC that lasted for years.
Footage from the archives of WKY-TV, the legacy of Oklahoma’s News 4, captured the reaction in real-time.
Fast forward 65 years.
KFOR asked Historian and Clara Luper Legacy Committee member Dr. Karlos Hill what would have happened if the Oklahoma City sit-in had not happened:
Dr. Karlos Hill: “Roughly a year later [in] Greensboro, North Carolina, some NAACP activists decided to do exactly what Marilyn Luper and thirteen students had done [and] it was a watershed moment; We’re not just celebrating and remembering Clara Luper and the activists that desegregated downtown Oklahoma City We’re remembering activists who helped to change America.”
The anniversary celebration continues Sunday with the Freedom Fiesta Celebration Program, to be held at Fifth Street Baptist Church, featuring a keynote address from Pastor A. Byron Coleman, Senior Pastor of Fifth Street Baptist Church.