Clara Luper


Clara Luper, Photograph by Wyndham Leigh, 2007. Courtesy Oklahoma Hall of Fame Archives.

Profession: Civil Rights Leader

Hometown: Oklahoma City

Inducted: 2007

A committed educator, Clara Luper taught in public schools across Oklahoma for 40 years. She earned her master's in history from the University of Oklahoma in 1951 after being the first African American admitted to the graduate program. She went on to serve on the Oklahoma City school board as an advocate for teaching African American history in schools. Luper was a life-long activist who fought for racial integration and equality.

Clara Luper was a pioneering Civil Rights activist whose optimism and perseverance changed Oklahoma City and beyond for the better. After taking some of her Douglass High School students to an N.A.A.C.P. event in 1957, Luper was inspired to utilize nonviolent protest to end segregation in public spaces in Oklahoma City. In 1958, she and her students pioneered the "sit-in" at the Katz drugstore, a method which would be used across the nation. Beyond public spaces, Luper was an outspoken advocate for racial equity in the workplace, acting as the spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City Sanitation Workers Strike in 1969. Despite the discrimination she faced, Luper remained an optimistic champion of racial and gender equality throughout her life. She continued to advocate for social change as an educator and radio show host. Her autobiography, Behold the Walls, was published in 1979.

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