Oklahoma Civil Rights Pioneer Remembered In New Play

Tuesday, February 7th 2012, 6:59 pm
By: News 9

Oklahoma civil rights pioneer Clara Luper may have passed last year, but her legacy lives on in a new play being performed this month.

DWe Williams wrote "Sitting in With Clara," and directs the play as performed by Rhythmically Speaking, an ethnically diverse theatre group.

When DWe Williams set out to write the play, she knew she'd have to present just a small part of Luper's legacy.  The play could only be about an hour long. 

"It is a very large, broad story to tell," said Williams.  "We really had to look at ways to focus on a particular portion of her story."

Williams focused on the sit-ins that Luper started.  Luper convinced her NAACP Youth Council, and the parents of its members that being served at the same counter as white customers was a needed step for the state of Oklahoma.  Luper believed that she and her group could effect change through non-violent protests.  Luper and the group's first sit-in took place at Oklahoma City's Katz Drugstore on August 19, 1958.

Williams' troupe documents the youth council's visits to other establishments in hopes of getting served.  Rhythmically Speaking pulls few punches in its portrayal of the attitudes of those days. 

"The nerve of you coloreds," commented one of the actors portraying a disgruntled customer.  "Comin' in and tryin' to eat at our restaurants."

Eventually, the racial divide fell at Katz Drugstore, then another, and another.  The sit-ins had become part of a national trend that forever change race relations in the country.

"I don't think she realized in particular what impact she would have on history overall," said Williams.  "She just had a passion and she went after it."

"Sitting in With Clara" is being performed throughout the month of February at different libraries.  

Click here for a complete list of libraries.