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Zelia Page Breaux—Builder of People and State


Zelia Page Breaux

In John Perry’s 1993 Oklahoman newspaper article “Deep Second Still Lives In Dreams,” Oklahoma City native and civil rights icon Jimmy Stewart recounted his childhood involvement in a major public event that demonstrated Zelia Page Breaux’s (1880-1956) influence on not just the African-American community, but all of OKC:

“Stewart sits up a little in his seat now as he thinks back to the first Douglass (High School) students invited to march in the annual downtown Boys Day parade. Blacks had been banned from the parade before 1924. When the school superintendent decided to let Douglass students march, Breaux drilled her band, and the male teachers—some of them with (military backgrounds)—took the rest of the boys out on the football field every day and taught them to march with precision and decorum.

The parade began at Main and Broadway and traveled west, and Douglass was left to the end.

‘Ralph [Ellison] was in the front, in the band. I wasn't in the band, but I was marching with them,’ Stewart tells me. ‘And when we hit Main and Broadway, it was a show. People just looked out the windows, “Look at there at the Douglass High School,” and the band was in step and the boys were marching like the military, whereas the Central High School boys were going along waving at people and just talking. It was a jolly thing to them, but our boys didn't say a word. They marched just like soldiers.’ I ask Stewart how he felt marching in the parade.