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As Oklahomans honor Clara Luper on what would have been her 100th birthday, state legislators seek to erase Black history in Oklahoma.

Hundreds gathered outside the Oklahoma State Capitol Wednesday morning on what would have been the 100th birthday of Civil Rights activist and educator Clara Luper. Wednesday was deemed “Clara Luper Day” in Oklahoma City by Mayor David Holt in a ceremony in front of the capitol building.

Clara Luper was an Oklahoma City teacher and local NAACP Youth Council advisor who famously led the first sit-in to integrate an Oklahoma City drugstore in 1958. She helped integrate restaurants and public accommodations in the state years before the sit-in movement gained steam in the Carolinas. 

In 1944, Luper received a bachelor’s degree from Langston University and later became the first Black person to graduate from the University of Oklahoma with a master’s degree in history.

Oklahomans Remembers Clara Luper As Legislators Seek To Erase Her Legacy
Clara Luper (20246.38.282.2, John Melton Collection, OHS).

Oklahoma City University, where Luper received an honorary doctorate, currently awards 30 full scholarships per year to underrepresented students in her name.

Luper also led the Oklahoma City Public School integration fight and the first “Freedom March” in Tulsa to desegregate public accommodations.

As Some Celebrate Clara Luper’s Legacy, Oklahoma Legislators Look To Erase Black History

While many Oklahomans and some elected officials celebrate Luper’s legacy and Black history in Oklahoma, there are still many who don’t and are using their powers to try and erase Black history.

Oklahomans Remembers Clara Luper As Legislators Seek To Erase Her Legacy
Clara Luper boarding a bus for a civil rights protest (20246.38.104.5, John Melton Collection, OHS).

Jess Eddy, a Clara Luper Legacy Committee member, told The Black Wall Street Times of the power of unity Luper’s legacy brings.

“One has to admire the yet indomitable strength and spirit of Clara Luper, her life and teachings,” Eddy said. “She still stands as a stark reminder of the people’s unity in defiance of the attempts by those at the State Capitol to erase her work and her people.”

Over her lifetime, Luper received over 150 awards including Zeta Phi Beta Woman of the Year, Oklahoma Confederated Women’s Club Award, and the National Voter Registration Award. In 1997, Luper was inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame and in 2008 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

She passed away on June 8, 2011 at the age of 88-years-old.

Mike Creef is a fighter for equality and justice for all. Growing up bi-racial (Jamaican-American) on the east coast allowed him to experience many different cultures and beliefs that helped give him a...

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