Thirty-five Negro children sat quietly for more than six hours Friday in the John A. Brown Co. luncheonette, in the fourth day of their campaign to win food and drink service from downtown firms.-The Daily Oklahoman, Aug. 23, 1958
What can never be understated is the courageousness of civil rights icon Clara Luper and those children-at the time-who broke down segregation barriers in the 1950s by sit-ins at Oklahoma City lunch diners, diners which refused to serve them simply because they were black.
Luper, who was 88, died last week, and her death was noted locally and nationally. The issue of her courage and the courage of the children is what prevails after all these years and will continue to prevail. It’s difficult to find that type of courage today in political action.
Here’s some of the bleak reporting in The Daily Oklahoman about the sit-in at the John A. Brown Co. luncheonette in August, 1958:
Police ordered one white woman woman to leave after she sat down in the lap of a Negro girl who was sitting alone at a table.
One white man was ejected from the luncheonette after he loudly criticized Negroes.
Four white boys were also ejected and taken to the store manager’s office for a conference with police and store officials after they entered the luncheonette, displaying a “rebel flag.” Police confiscated the flag. A number of white customers left angrily when Negro youths sat beside them. Most, however, paid no attention.-The Daily Oklahoman, Aug. 24, 1958
Luper, who served as an advisor to the children, prevailed against this backdrop of hatred, and, though racism continued and continues, a main obstacle of segregation was overcome locally and regionally. Her sit-ins at a Katz drugstore, for example, forced the company to integrate all its stores through the Midwest.
Luper, a longtime local teacher and activist, made Oklahoma City a better place for everyone.