On this day in History, August 19, 1958, the NAACP Youth Council held a sit-in at the Katz Drug Store lunch counter in Oklahoma City. The council protested the whites-only seating at the establishment.
Led by activist Clara Luper, a high school teacher, and her students, the sit-in was seen as one of the first protest to garner national attention. Shortly after the sit-in began the store owner agreed to integrate the lunch counter following in the steps of the segregation which had long been ingrained in Oklahoma’s culture. Like other states across the country, “Whites Only” signs were a constant reminder to African Americans of their “inferior” status. Luper felt that legal action alone would not change such a pattern, favoring peaceful sit-ins as a way to confront the problem head-on.
The group continued to protest other restaurants in Oklahoma City and was integral to leading the way for other to also integrate many other restaurants across the Midwest over the years.
The Dockum and Oklahoma City sit-ins are often overshadowed by the later sit-ins in Greensboro, N.C. and other places throughout the South but were just as groundbreaking.
Over the course of their campaign, the Youth Council attracted support from members of the black community as well as many whites in the religious community. Important community leaders such as Father Robert Mc Dole of the Corpus Catholic church threw their weight behind the sit-in campaign and condemned the practice of segregation.
The desegregation campaign ended in 1964, when Congress passed the Civil Rights Bill that effectively outlawed discrimination in most public accommodations. Although there were no explicit confrontations in Oklahoma City, the relative peace did not mean that all whites immediately embraced the law.