Monthly Archive for August, 2012

Remembering Fannie Lou Hamer and Voter Registration

On August 31, 1962—50 years ago today—Fannie Lou Hamer led seventeen people to a courthouse in Indianola, Mississippi, to attempt to register to vote. It was the beginning of a long struggle.

For decades, white supremacists had blocked African American voter registration by enacting various discriminatory rules and regulations—particularly unreasonable tests that most applicants would inevitably fail. Despite voter registration drives, only a tiny segment of the African American population was registered.

When Hamer and the others arrived at the courthouse on August 31 to register, they were met by men with rifles determined to prevent their registration. Ultimately, not one member of the group was able to register that day. And Hamer lost her job because her employer objected to her attempted registration.

Unwilling to give up, Hamer attended a SNCC leadership training conference, and then continued her registration attempts until officials finally allowed her to register in December 1962. But Hamer wasn’t just seeking registration for herself; she wanted true voting equality for all.

Hostility and violence always loomed over fights for civil rights. In June 1963, on her way back from a SCLC citizenship training program, Hamer was arrested after being refused service in a restaurant. She and her 15-year-old traveling companion were beaten by two other African American prisoners under orders from the police. Although five were charged in the beating, an all-white jury later acquitted the police.

Undeterred, Hamer continued the struggle, walking in James Meredith’s march against fear and in 1968 sitting as a delegate at the Democratic Party’s nominating convention. Her later activism included not only voting rights but also anti-poverty campaigns and desegregation protests.

A testament to her influence and contributions, Hamer’s funeral was attended by hundreds of people, including Andrew Young, who gave the eulogy. A member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, she was also honored as the namesake of several institutions, including parks and educational facilities.

Hamer, like so many other civil rights activists and ordinary citizens, risked hostility and violence to make major contributions to the civil rights movement. In 1964, poll taxes—another common disfranchisement tool—were banned through the passage of the 24th Amendment; in 1965, the Voting Rights Act outlawed the disfranchisement practices that kept Hamer and many other African Americans from registering to vote.

To learn more about voting rights, take a look at this lengthy contextual report published by the National Park Service.

To learn more about Hamer, check out this page from Mississippi History Now, an online publication of the Mississippi Historical Society, and this page from Howard University. The Encyclopedia Britannica article can be found here.

For more on Hamer’s life and work, check out Kay Mills’ This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (University Press of Kentucky 1993) and Chana Kai Lee’s For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (University Press of Illinois 2000). Hamer herself wrote an autobiography in 1967: To Praise Our Bridges: An Autobiography.

For a study of the opposing activities of Fannie Lou Hamer and segregationist politician James Eastland, check out Chris Myers Asch’s The Senator and the Sharecropper: The Freedom Struggles of James O. Eastland and Fannie Lou Hamer (UNC Press 2011).

To listen to Hamer’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, in which she recalls the August 31 registration effort and the events which followed, click here. To read the text, and to access a summary, check out this page from American Public Media.

To learn more about the freedom struggle in Sunflower County—the location of the August 31 voter registration attempt—check out J. Todd Moye’s Let the People Decide: Black Freedom and White Resistance Movements in Sunflower County, Mississippi, 1945-1986 (UNC Press 2004).

To learn about voting rights in Mississippi, check out Frank Parker’s Black Votes Count: Political Empowerment in Mississippi after 1965 (UNC Press 1990).

Disfranchisement began long before Hamer was born. To learn more about the systematic exclusion of African Americans from elections, check out Michael Perman’s Struggle for Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South, 1888-1908 (UNC Press 2001).

Remembering Emmett Till

On August 28, 1955—57 years ago today—fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was brutally murdered in Mississippi.

Till, who was from Chicago, was visiting his relatives in Mississippi. On August 24, while in a grocery story with other young boys, Till either spoke with or whistled at the 21-year-old wife of the proprietor. It is unclear exactly what transpired during that interaction, but the white woman, Carolyn Bryant, told her husband and others that Till had grabbed her around the waist and used foul language.

Several nights later, after Bryant’s husband, Roy, returned to town, he, his half-brother J.W. Milam, and possibly others, kidnapped Till, brutally beat and mangled him, shot him, and dumped his body in a river, weighed down by a heavy cotton gin fan.

Three days later, Till’s body was discovered, unrecognizable after the violence he had faced.

Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, shocked the nation by holding an open-casket public funeral service. Images of the young boy’s mutilated body circulated heavily in the press, engendering public outcry amongst both African Americans and whites.

The images made it difficult to ignore the hostility and violence African Americans in Mississippi faced every day. However, other papers—specifically in Mississippi—presented a different story, highlighting Carolyn Bryant’s virtue and spreading fictitious rumors of an uprising by enraged African Americans.

The sheriff who had initially identified the body as Till’s backpedaled, raising doubts that Till had even been killed—let alone by Bryant and Milam.

After a heavily publicized trial, both murderers were acquitted. Jury deliberations lasted just over an hour, with one member of the all-white jury reporting “if we hadn’t stopped to drink a pop, it wouldn’t have taken that long.”

Just a few months later, Bryant and Milam confessed in an article in Look magazine to kidnapping and murdering Till, but by now, they were protected against double jeopardy and could not be convicted.

In 2005, during a reopened case, Till’s body was exhumed and autopsied, confirming his identity.

In 2007, more than half a century after Till’s death, the first in a series of historical markers about the murder and trial was unveiled in Sumner, Mississippi, with an audience of several hundred people.

The brutal murder is still remembered today as a graphic example of the discrimination and violence African Americans were subjected to for years. Till’s name again hit the news earlier this year, when 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s death was compared with Till’s several decades earlier.

The case was later chronicled in the PBS film The Murder of Emmett Till. The PBS website associated with the film offers a summary, a timeline, primary documents (including Till’s last letter to his mother), and more.

To learn more, and to view documents and multimedia, click here.

For more information, check out Christopher Metress’s The Lynching of Emmett Till: A Documentary Narrative (University of Virginia Press 2002), and Stephen Whitfield’s A Death in the Delta: The Story of Emmett Till (Johns Hopkins University Press 1991).

Till’s cousin, Simeon Wright, witnessed both the encounter in the grocery store and the kidnapping. To learn more, check out his memoir, Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till (Chicago Review Press 2010).

Chris Crowe published a young adult novel based on these events: Mississippi Trial, 1955 (Penguin 2003).

To see the FBI records about the Emmett Till case, including a transcript of the trial, click here.

49 Years Ago: The March on Washington

On August 28, 1963—49 years ago today—more than 250,000 people participated in the March on Washington and listened to Martin Luther King, Jr., present what would become his most famous speech.

It had been a long time coming. Famed activist A. Philip Randolph had proposed the march in late 1962. Organization took time, because Randolph needed to bring together various civil rights organizations, notably the NAACP, the SCLC, CORE, SNCC, and the National Urban League. Randolph’s associate, Bayard Rustin, worked with roughly 200 volunteers to put together the nonviolent protest.

The largest human rights demonstration in U.S. history, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom brought individuals and civil rights organizations together. After a mile-long march across the National Mall, participants gathered to listen to speeches by activists and religious leaders. At the end of the day, protest leaders met with President John F. Kennedy at the White House.

The event’s significance cannot be overstated. In bringing so many people together in support of one common goal, the march helped pressure the federal government to create civil rights legislation. Soon after, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The march is not only famous for its sheer size and success, but also for a speech given that day by Martin Luther King, Jr.—a speech which today is still quoted in books and classrooms throughout the nation. In his “I Have a Dream” speech (audio), King spoke of a brighter future—a time when blacks and whites would be able to come together as brothers and sisters, when his children would be judged by their character rather than by the color of their skin, and when the American creed, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” would truly be realized.

Forty-eight years later, near the spot from which King spoke these famous words, Americans again celebrated the life of this well-known minister and the contributions of the civil rights movement. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial opened to the public in August 2011 south of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In October 2011, politicians, public figures, and citizens from across the country came together to dedicate the memorial, which had been in planning for more than two decades.

The spirit which brought the individuals and organizations together on August 28, 1963, is still remembered today. Large nonviolent protests modeled after the March on Washington have taken place in years since. Five years later, thousands of Americans camped out on the National Mall in opposition to economic inequality and poverty. And just recently, on August 18, 2012, individuals and activists again descended on the National Mall, this time for women’s rights. (Click here to see photos from the We Are Woman rally.)

To learn more, and to see the official program of the 1963 march, check out this page from the Our Documents Initiative, and this page from Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. This page from the White House Historical Association also provides information and photos.

To read a newspaper article published after the march, click here. For photos of the event, published in the Milwaukee Journal, click here.

To view photos from the October 2011 Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial dedication, click here.

For more on Bayard Rustin, check out PBS’s film Brother Outsider and the related website.

Remembering the Women’s Strike for Equality

On August 26th, 1970—42 years ago today—more than 20,000 women rallied across the country in favor of workplace, political, and social equality for females.

Coming 50 years after the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote, the protest was at that time the United States’ largest strike for women’s rights.

By 1970, women were still paid less than men who performed the same jobs, were restricted from higher education, and in some states were limited in their ability to own their own property or serve on juries.

Organized by leading feminist Betty Friedan and sponsored by the National Women’s Strike Coalition, the Women’s Strike for Equality was centered in New York City, where thousands of women gathered on Fifth Avenue to listen to speeches, carrying signs with such slogans as “Don’t Iron While the Strike Is Hot” and “Housewives are Unpaid Slave Laborers.” A group of women even placed a banner reading “Women of the World Unite!” on the Statue of Liberty.

The protest was not confined to New York City; individuals and groups in other cities across the country joined forces, holding their own marches and rallies.

Although there were of course mixed reactions, the strike was deemed a success and many political figures came out in support. The protest strengthened the second wave feminism movement already taking root in the U.S.

Since 1971, August 26th has been designated “Women’s Equality Day,” celebrating suffrage while also calling attention to women’s continued fight for full equality.

To learn more about the protest, check out this article from Ms. Magazine, and this page from the Jewish Women’s Archive. The protest was later chronicled in Al Sutton’s documentary Equality, I Am a Woman.

To read an Associated Press account of the protest, published the next day, click here.

Click here to read a March 21, 1970, New York Times article highlighting Betty Friedan’s initial call for the protest.

To learn more about Betty Friedan, check out this article from the New York Times. Friedan’s extensive writings are available through various publishers.

To learn more about the accomplishments of the women’s movement, check out Ruth Rosen’s The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America (Penguin 2006).

To learn more about second-wave feminists, check out Jules Archer’s Breaking Barriers: The Feminist Revolution from Susan B. Anthony to Margaret Sanger to Betty Friedan  (Puffin 1996)

To learn more about the suffrage struggle, check out Robert P.J. Cooney, Jr.’s Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement (published by the collaboration of American Graphic Press and the National Women’s History Project).

For a study of how physical spaces in society, work, and the home illustrated women’s inequality throughout history, check out Daphne Spain’s Gendered Spaces (UNC Press 1992).

For a discussion of the meaning of male and female in American history, check out Mary Ryan’s Mysteries of Sex: Tracing Men and Women through American History (UNC Press 2006).

For more on women’s history, check out the edited collection U.S. History As Women’s History: New Feminist Essays (UNC Press 1995).

Out of the feminist movement arose Ms. magazine, a popular icon of the women’s movement. To learn more, check out Amy Erdman Farrell’s Yours in Sisterhood: Ms. Magazine and the Promise of Popular Feminism (UNC Press 1993).

On This Day: The Coushatta Massacre

On August 25, 1874—138 years ago today—white residents of Louisiana murdered an African American man named Thomas Floyd, setting in motion violence that would leave at least ten Republicans dead.

In the years following the Civil War, a Union army veteran who had captained an African American regiment was elected to the Louisiana State Senate as a Republican. He also appointed a few of his relatives to local positions. A few years later, Confederate veterans—many of whom had participated in the Colfax Massacre of 1873—formed the White League, publicly and violently agitating against Republican governance and vowing to restore white supremacy.

After whites murdered African American Republican Thomas Floyd in Brownsville on August 25, tensions in the region mounted. The White League arrested several white Republicans and twenty African Americans, accusing them of planning a “Negro rebellion.” The whites’ rumors of uprising spread, attracting hundreds of heavily armed whites from nearby areas to Coushatta within two days.

After being held hostage for days, the white prisoners agreed to resign and to leave the state. While traveling under guard, the prisoners were attacked by heavily armed whites determined to kill the men.  All six were killed.

The violence was not confined to this group; whites in Coushatta and the surrounding area beat, burned, and hanged several African Americans. By the end of the massacre, at least four African Americans and the six white officeholders were dead. Although a handful of men were arrested, no one was ever convicted for the murders.

The violence shocked the nation, highlighting all too vividly the turbulent nature of the Reconstruction-era South. Violence persisted across Louisiana as white supremacists continued their effort to unseat Republicans and install Democrats into positions of power. Although President Ulysses S. Grant sent federal troops to Louisiana, the White League was eventually successful in overthrowing the Republican government, installing a Democratic majority and instilling practices of white supremacy.

Louisiana was one of several Southern states affected by the Compromise of 1877, which effectively ended Reconstruction by removing federal troops from Southern states.

To learn more about the Coushatta Massacre, check out this entry from the Encyclopedia of Louisiana, which also provides related illustrations. This page from PBS also provides a summary.

To learn more about the former Confederates’ reign of terror in Louisiana, check out Nicholas Lemann’s Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2007).

To learn more about Marshall Twitchell, check out Ted Tunnell’s Edge of the Sword: The Ordeal of Carpetbagger Marshall H. Twitchell in the Civil War and Reconstruction (Louisiana State University Press 2004).

To see a Harper’s Weekly illustration of the aftermath of the Colfax Massacre, click here.

To learn more about the so-called Redeemers, check out this page from the University of Houston’s Digital History database.

On This Day: The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

On August 25, 1925—87 years ago today—the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters held its first large meeting.

In the early twentieth century, the Pullman Company employed African Americans as porters and maids on trains, simultaneously promoting the jobs as preferable to others available to African Americans while barring them from whites-only jobs with the Company and forcing them into subservient positions to whites.

Dissatisfied after years of working long hours for little pay, a group of porters employed by the Chicago-based Pullman Company asked A. Philip Randolph—a prominent African American labor activist—to form an independent union. Randolph agreed, and the group took shape in 1925.

The union immediately met strong resistance. The Pullman Company denounced Randolph as a communist and used public opinion and the media to garner support from middle-class African Americans. This was surprisingly successful, due in part to the poor image many African Americans had of labor unions.

Before the union could be destroyed, Congress passed legislation guaranteeing employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection.”

It was a turning point for the Brotherhood, which became the first labor union led by African Americans to be chartered by the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

Finally, in 1937, the Pullman Company signed a labor agreement with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, agreeing to wage increases.

Members of the Brotherhood became important actors in the civil rights movement, spreading information and creating networks. In fact, after the Chicago Defender was banned from distribution in many states throughout the South, porters used their access to circulate it to individuals who would then share it with other individuals.

The Brotherhood eventually merged with the larger Brotherhood of Railway, Airline and Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express, and Station Employees.

For more information, check out the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum.

To learn more, check out this page from PBS, and this page from the Encyclopedia of Chicago. The U.S. Department of Transportation also provides a great summary of A. Philip Randolph and the Brotherhood.

For more information on the early organization and activities of the Brotherhood, check out Beth Tompkins Bates’ Pullman Porters and the Rise of Protest Politics in Black America, 1925-1945 (UNC Press, 2001), Larry Tye’s Rising From the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class (Macmillan, 2005), and William Harris’ Keeping the Faith: A. Philip Randolph, Milton P. Webster, and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, 1925-37 (University of Illinois Press).

Members of the Ladies’ Auxiliary were instrumental in the union’s work. For more information, check out Melinda Chateauvert’s Marching Together: Women of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (University of Illinois Press, 1998).

For more about the porters, check out Jack Santino’s Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle: Stories of Black Pullman Porters (University of Illinois Press, 1991).

To learn about the Pullman Company’s history, check out David Ray Papke’s The Pullman Case: The Clash of Labor and Capital in Industrial America (University Press of Kansas, 1999).

From the Archives: An NCCU President Resists Pressure to Discourage Student Participation in Civil Rights Action

This post is the 10th in a series from the Triangle Research Libraries Network’s CCC project, digitizing more than 40 archival collections related to the long civil rights movement from four area institutions.  For more on this digitization project, click here.

Alfonso Elder Papers, Folder 215, speech: scans 2-9

When North Carolina Central University President Alfonso Elder was asked to address a regional meeting of the National Student Association at Duke University on 25 February 1962, the administration hoped he would dissuade students from participation in local civil rights protests while he lectured those gathered on the “proper form of student commitment to an ideal of racial justice” and the “proper relationship of the university to its donors and legal owners” [1]. The speech that Elder gave, titled “The Responsibility of the University to Society (With Special Emphasis on Student Involvement in Extra-Class Affairs),” was not the lecture on passivity that some may have hoped for. Instead, Elder clearly articulated his heartfelt belief in the multi-faceted roles and responsibilities of the academic community and the indisputable right of students, faculty, and employees to display their “loyalty to the ideal of social justice” [1].

Continue reading ‘From the Archives: An NCCU President Resists Pressure to Discourage Student Participation in Civil Rights Action’

Remembering the Library Sit-In in Alexandria, Virginia

On August 21, 1939—73 years ago today and more than two decades before the famous sit-in movement—five young African Americans staged a planned sit-in at the public library in Alexandria, Virginia. It is generally believed to be the nation’s first sit-in.

Organized by attorney Samuel Tucker, the five young men entered the Barrett Branch Library on Queen Street and politely requested library cards. After their requests were denied simply because they were African American, the men sat down to read. Police officers were called, and the men were arrested for “disorderly conduct.” Although the men ultimately were not convicted, their arrest represented a blatant display of racism and discrimination.

Such segregation was not unusual. Virginia’s Public Assemblages Act (1926, also known as the Massenburg Bill)—one of several “racial integrity laws” passed by white supremacists—required whites and African Americans to be segregated within the same facility; however, in the case of the Alexandria library, African Americans were completely and illegally barred from admission.

Months earlier, a retired army sergeant, George Wilson, had also tried to obtain a library card, also to no avail. Although a lawsuit was filed, and although the judge affirmed that there were “no legal grounds for refusing the plaintiff or any other bona fide citizen the use of the library,” Wilson’s request for a library card was denied on technical grounds.

One year later, the city opened a segregated library for African Americans—a library that of course was inferior to the whites-only library (which, by the way, wasn’t integrated until the 1950s). That same segregated library for African Americans is today the site of the Alexandria Black History Museum.

Attorney Samuel Tucker continued to fight for equality, working with the NAACP to desegregate public schools. He was instrumental in the fight against segregation in Prince Edward County. (To learn more about this struggle, check out Jill Ogline Titus’ Brown’s Battleground: Students, Segregationists, and the Struggle for Justice in Prince Edward County, Virginia, published by UNC Press in 2011.)

In 2009, on the 70th anniversary of the sit-in, elementary students from a school named for Tucker participated in a reenactment.

A documentary entitled Out of Obscurity chronicles the 1939 sit-in.

To learn more, and to view a photograph, check out this page from the Alexandria Black History Museum.  The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities also provides a summary through its African American Historic Sites Database.

To read an article published in the Afro-American a week after the protest, click here.

To learn more about race relations and segregation during this time period in Virginia, check out J. Douglas Smith’s Managing White Supremacy: Race, Politics, and Citizenship in Jim Crow Virginia (UNC Press 2002).

To learn more about the development of racism and white supremacy, check out Mark Smith’s How Race Is Made: Slavery, Segregation, and the Senses (UNC Press 2008).

To learn more about how Virginia’s laws have changed over time, check out Peter Wallenstein’s Blue Laws and Black Codes: Conflict, Courts, and Change in Twentieth-Century Virginia (UVA Press 2004).

On This Day: The Economic Opportunity Act

On August 20, 1964—48 years ago today—President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Economic Opportunity Act, devoting nearly $1 billion to programs aimed at helping the poor.

President John F. Kennedy had proposed many social and economic reforms in the early 1960s; after his assassination, President Johnson continued this work, seeking civil rights reforms and, most famously, waging a war on poverty.

By January 1964, President Johnson had tasked Special Assistant Sargent Shriver with developing a bill to combat poverty. In March, the bill was presented to Congress; only a few months later, on August 8, the bill was passed in Congress. On August 20, President Johnson signed it into law.

Establishing community action programs to address education, job training, loans, and more, the Act also created the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to review the operation of these programs.

President Johnson spoke in the Rose Garden while signing the bill. His speech read, in part:

For so long as man has lived on this earth poverty has been his curse.

On every continent in every age men have sought escape from poverty’s oppression.

Today for the first time in all the history of the human race, a great nation is able to make and is willing to make a commitment to eradicate poverty among its people

[…]

For the million young men and women who are out of school and who are out of work, this program will permit us to take them off the streets, put them into work training programs, to prepare them for productive lives, not wasted lives.

The legislation was controversial from the beginning and remains so today. The Office of Economic Opportunity was eventually disbanded, and many of the programs were modified, but certain programs (such as Job Corps and Head Start) operate today under the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services.

To view a digitized copy of the act, check out this page from the National Archives.

To read President Johnson’s speech from the signing, click here.

To learn more about President Kennedy and President Johnson’s fight for economic opportunity, check out this page from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more on the war on poverty, check out Michael Gillette’s Launching the War on Poverty: An Oral History (Oxford University Press 2010), and Annelise Orleck and Lisa Hazirjian’s The War on Poverty: A New Grassroots History, 1964-1980 (University of Georgia Press 2011).

To learn about the connections between race relations and the war on poverty, check out Jill Quadagno’s The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty (Oxford University Press 1996) and David Greenstone and Paul Peterson’s Race and Authority in Urban Politics: Community Relations and the War on Poverty (University of Chicago Press 1973).

To learn more about President Johnson, check out Robert Caro’s The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power (Knopf 2012).

To learn about President Johnson’s relationship with the civil rights movement, check out David Carter’s The Music Has Gone Out of the Movement: Civil Rights and the Johnson Administration, 1965-1968 (UNC Press 2009).

Remembering the Oklahoma City Sit-Ins

On August 19, 1958—54 years ago today and a year and a half before the famous Greensboro Sit-In—schoolteacher and NAACP official Clara Luper led thirteen African American students into a Katz drug store in Oklahoma City to nonviolently agitate against racial discrimination and segregation.

The group sat quietly at the drug store’s lunch counter, ordered drinks, and were refused service. Undeterred, the group continued the protest, returning the next day. Soon after the protest began, Katz changed its segregation policy—not just in Oklahoma, but also in other states. The protesters moved on to desegregation efforts at other businesses, while also organizing consumer boycotts.

This protest, though certainly successful, was only the beginning. Similar measures would prove necessary across the country. A year and a half later, four African American college students began a sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina, launching a nationwide student-led movement and leading to the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Years later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made segregation in public places illegal.

For more information, check out this page from Swarthmore College’s Global Nonviolent Action Database.

The 1958 sit-in was recently memorialized in a play, “Sitting with Clara Luper.” There is also a street near Oklahoma City named in honor of Clara Luper.

Clara Luper, who was the first African American student to be admitted to the University of Oklahoma’s graduate history program, was arrested 26 times in civil rights protests. In 1979, she authored a memoir: Behold the Walls. It is now out of print, but can be found in libraries. To learn more about Luper, check out this page from the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture.

To learn about an earlier sit-in, the Dockum Drug Store sit-in in Kansas, check out this page from the Kansas Historical Society.

For a timeline of 1958 Oklahoma sit-ins, check out this page from The Oklahoman. For a comprehensive list of sit-ins, click here.

To read an account of a later sit-in, check out Merrill Proudfoot’s Diary of a Sit-In, available through UNC Press’s Enduring Editions collection.

To learn more about sit-ins and other student-dominated civil rights protests, check out Wesley Hogan’s Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC’s Dream for a New America (UNC Press 2007).