OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – May 3rd marks the 100th anniversary of the birthday of Civil Rights icon Clara Luper.
KFOR sat down with Luper’s daughter, Marilyn Hildreth Luper, to remember the now revered teacher and activist.
“I’ve never known too many people in my life to ever reach 100 or to reach 100 years….but in my heart, I celebrate mom all the time,” she said in an interview with KFOR.
A native of Okfuskee County, Luper was a pioneer of the local and national Civil Rights Movement as well as a popular area school teacher, teaching for 41 years across Oklahoma.
Luper retired from John Marshall High School after 19 years in 1989.
“My mother must’ve taught everybody in Oklahoma City. Every time I go to the grocery store, buy a donut, go to Sonics … [I hear] ‘Your mother taught me’ [and] I say, ‘Did she teach you anything you remember?’,” said Marilyn, laughing.
In 1957, Luper became the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council advisor. In 1958, Luper led student groups as they participated in OKC’s first sit-ins, also going on to desegregate lunch counters and other eating establishments in 1958.
The non-violent protests helped fuel the end to segregation across Oklahoma.
Marilyn said her mother’s drive and discipline created a framework for teaching her and others how to respond to difficulty and trials.
“[Back then], we learned of passive nonviolent resistance. We learned as old as the Bible itself [to] turn the other cheek. When people wrong you, do good to them anyway… get you some tough skin and deal with it,” she said.
“She had a lot of strength and I always ask God to be able to take the blows and abuse that she took, because my patience level is not that strong,” Marilyn added.
The public is invited to celebrate the life and legacy of Clara Luper at the State Capitol, 2300 N Lincoln Blvd, on Wednesday morning with Unity in the Community, beginning at 9 a.m.
The event is free and open to people of all ages.