Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the civil rights sit-in anniversary.
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A major renovation of the historic Freedom Center of Oklahoma City is now underway.
The historic landmark in northeast Oklahoma City was originally home to Oklahoma City’s NAACP Youth Council and has long been considered home of OKC’s civil rights movement.
Project organizers said work on the facility began in June 2022 and will continue into the next year.
“We are in the midst of the Freedom Center restoration [and] we haven’t seen development like this in northeast Oklahoma City,” said Christina Beatty, who serves as Project Director for the Center.
The building’s restoration was originally included as part of the MAPS 4 package passed by voters in December 2019; including $25 million for the restoration of the Freedom Center building and the creation of a new Clara Luper Civil Rights Center.
According to Beatty, non-profit Freedom Center of Oklahoma City, LLC, is now taking the lead on the effort, following a board reconstitution, and the board has since raised private funding to complete construction.
“Private fundraising to support this project allows us to keep ownership of the building itself, and we are so grateful for support from the philanthropic community, individuals [and] local businesses [helping] us do this work,” she added.
Beatty told KFOR the restoration was set in motion back in 2018 during the 60th anniversary of the first civil rights sit-in, and resurrecting the building is a valuable opportunity for the City of Oklahoma City to take its rightful place in national history.
“This is a huge and important part of our history that has not been told,” said Beatty, while adding that Oklahoma City’s role in the national civil rights movement is not as well understood as it should be.
“Oklahoma City has been integral and a leader really in the civil rights movement and it’s an opportunity for us to understand our role in that,” she added.
“[The Civil Rights Movement] was a very intentional effort to organize,” she continued. “And in many ways, Oklahoma was a part of that leadership. If people had any idea how much time Thurgood Marshall spent here in Oklahoma during those times and in the forties and fifties…there’s such a rich history and rich legacy here [including] folks like Clara Luper, folks like the members of the NAACP Youth Council, several of which are on my board of directors.”
“There’s a rich history and legacy here of leadership, and I think it’s something for us all to be proud of.”
“[Clara Luper] inspires me because she helped people like me,” added her daughter, Maya about the woman who spent her life fighting for justice and racial equality in Oklahoma City
“It’s more than just construction for me,” said Sam Larkpor, a general contractor of ThunderTeam Construction.
“I feel a little bit connected to the to the fight that our ancestors did during the civil rights movement and I feel honored to be a part of the history to bring this back together,” he continued.
Beatty said the Center is working in tandem with the City of Oklahoma City though the MAPS process to build out the rest of the Clara Luper Civil Rights Campus, which will include a civil rights museum named for the civil rights pioneer.
“The tides are changing; however, we certainly still have lots of work to do,” she said.
The iconic monument that sat outside of the Freedom Center has also been relocated until the building’s restoration is complete.
The Freedom Center of Oklahoma City is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established to “educate, empower and enlighten our nation to reflect on the past, present and future of the Civil Rights Movement in Oklahoma”.
For more information, visit the Freedom Center of Oklahoma City website.