By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – On Tuesday, January 14, U.S. Congresswoman Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Oklahoma City, introduced legislation (H.R. 5597) to rename the downtown Oklahoma City post office after educator and civil rights leader Clara Luper.
Horn’s resolution, cosponsored by the entire Oklahoma congressional delegation, will redesignate the facility as the “Clara Luper Post Office.”
“Oklahoma City was ground zero for America’s civil rights movement,” said Horn. “We need to share that proud history and to make sure that the story of the historic sit-in movement led by Clara Luper and the NAACP Youth Council is never lost.”
On August 19, 1958, under Luper’s guidance, the Youth Council staged a “sit-in” at Oklahoma City’s Katz drugstore counter to demonstrated against the store’s segregation, which launched the nation’s sit-in movement. This event preceded the better known Woolworth’s “sit-in” in Greensboro, NC on Feb. 1, 1960.
In a New York Times article (June, 11, 2011 – the date of Ms. Luper’s passing), Dennis Hevesi reported, “On Aug. 19, 1958, Ms. Luper led three other adult chaperons and 14 members of the youth council into the Katz Drug Store in Oklahoma City, where they took seats at the counter and asked for Coca-Colas. Denied service, they refused to leave until closing time. They returned on Saturday mornings for several weeks… receiving local press coverage.
“Eventually the Katz chain agreed to integrate lunch counters at its 38 stores in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa. Over the next six years, the local NAACP chapter held sit-ins that led to the desegregation of almost every eating establishment in Oklahoma City,” Hevesi reported.
A believer of nonviolence, Luper participated in numerous marches and demonstrations and was often jailed during her advocacy struggle.
“Beloved Clara Luper stood for universal human and civil rights, no exceptions,” said Nathaniel Batchelder, director of the Peace House in Oklahoma City. “That is her legacy of love to this world. She could not, and did not, remain silent when anyone was judged, bullied, or discriminated against, simply because of who they were. The heart of Clara Luper continues to beat in all who work for universal human and civil rights.”
The MAPS 4 projects approved by Oklahoma City voters last month include a building a new civil rights museum, called Clara Luper Civil Rights Center. Oklahoma City named a street, the Clara Luper Corridor, in her honor in 2000.
Luper died in 2011 at the age of 88.
“Renaming Oklahoma City’s Downtown Post Office as the Clara Luper Post Office is just one small step we can take to honor those who struggled for civil rights here in Oklahoma and inspired activists from across the country to do the same,” Horn said.
“The fight for equality and freedom is not over,” said Horn. “I hope that the Clara Luper Post Office serves as a reminder of the work we have left to do.”