Black History Month: Clara Luper

As we continue to honor Black History Month we'd like to recognize another great Oklahoman, Clara Luper, a civil rights icon and Oklahoman who jump started the sit-in movement. Born on May 3rd, 1923 in Okuskee county, she would be educated in Grayson Oklahoma. Eventually, she received a B.A. in mathematics from Langston University in 1944 and a M.A. in history education from OU in 1951. She joined the NAACP Youth Council as an advisor in 1957 while teaching at Dunjee high school in Spencer, Oklahoma. At the suggestion of her 8-year-old daughter, and influenced by MLK’s successful use of non-violence, Clara Luper organized the first sit-in in the country at Katz Drug Store in OKC on Aug 19th, 1958. This took place a year and a half before the Greensboro, NC sit-ins. The Katz Drug Store sit-ins were the first of many that successfully contributed to the desegregation of not just Oklahoma, but the U.S. as a whole. Despite her unsuccsseful 1972 U.S. senate bid, she continued to teach and fight for civil rights. She retired from teaching in 1989 after 41 years. She passed away on June 8th, 2011.  

-Easton Smith, 2/20/19
























Senators Mike Monroney and Robert S. Kerr having lunch in the Senate Cafeteria with Mrs. Clara Luper, NAACP representative in Oklahoma City, and 41 representatives of Youth Conferences, en route to Oklahoma from their convention in New York. Bishop Silkes is sitting next to Monroney. Washington, D.C. July 20, 1959. Citation: Robert S. Kerr Collection, Photographs Series, Item 1482, Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center, University of Oklahoma.

























Group of young African Americans carrying large photos of Fred R. Harris. Clara Luper is leading the group. Photo by Cecil Layne. Citation: Fred R. Harris Collection, Photographs Series, Item 406, Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center, University of Oklahoma.