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The Day Clara Luper and Mrs. John A. Brown Met

Clara Luper and the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council’s historic 1958 sit-in opened up Katz Drug Store lunch counters in Oklahoma City and elsewhere to African-Americans. Oklahoma school history teacher Luper, the famed “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” then turned her focus to the iconic, OKC-based John A. Brown Department Store chain. She was determined that blacks be allowed to sit at Brown’s lunch counters. Also, that they could try on the shoes and clothes they were allowed to purchase, but not check for size—that is, put up against or wrap around their skin. For four years, from 1957-1961, she and other blacks as well as whites picketed and protested —always non-violently— out front of the main downtown store, and conducted sit-ins at the Brown’s lunch counter. All the while, Luper tried without success to connect by phone with the widowed company owner, Della Dunkin Brown. Then, Brown responded, but an angry Luper ignored her for weeks, while continuing to protest. Finally, after many of Luper’s best friends, family members, trusted counselors, and even NAACP youth admonished her that she should lay aside her pride and meet with Brown, she did so. She recounted the memorable events which followed in her book Behold the Walls, excerpted below.