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Katz Drug and Clara Luper

Sitting down with OKC’s civil rights legacy



 


 


Long before a Walgreens or CVS occupied nearly every corner, there was Katz. The chain of “cut-rate” drug stores had its humble beginnings in Kansas City in the early part of the 20th century.  Eventually, it expanded to 65 stores in five states, including locations in Oklahoma City. The downtown store was located at 200 W Main, and its lunch counter was a favorite among locals.
 

 “Most drug stores of that era had a lunch counter,” says Larry O’Dell, director of development and special projects at the Oklahoma Historical Society. “It was a long counter where folks could sit and order café food and soft drinks. They were less formal than restaurants, and usually quicker.”

The lunch counter was a nice place to stop for an ice cold Coca-Cola or a hamburger and take a bit of a breather – unless you happened to be black. In those days, dining establishments, water fountains and even elevators were still very separate.

But that changed in 1958 when Clara Luper entered Katz and made her stand. Luper was an Oklahoma City school teacher, and eventually became known as the “mother” of the state’s civil rights movement.

“Mrs. Luper took over the NAACP youth council in 1957 and decided to stage her first sit-in at Katz in August of 1958,” O’Dell says. “There were mixed reactions to the sit-in, with many people of the era very belligerent to the demonstrators.”


When Luper and her young entourage sat down at the Katz lunch counter, they were promptly denied service. So they sat, hour after hour, and returned the next day. Eventually, Katz’s management relented, and some white customers offered to buy lunch for the polite young crowd. The sit-in prompted Katz to change its segregation policy – not just in Oklahoma, but in other states, as well.

“That was the precursor to other civil rights demonstrations that occurred in the 1960s,” O’Dell says. “Clara Luper led protests against other segregation policies, including Doe Doe Park in Lawton in 1966, and helped with Oklahoma City’s sanitation strike in 1969.”

The Katz store in Oklahoma City eventually was demolished as part of the Urban Renewal efforts in the 1960s and 1970s, but holds a unique place in the city’s struggle for civil rights.

“Oklahoma City desegregated very quickly,” O’Dell says. “The Katz protests were peaceful, and much less violent than most southern cities. But Katz was really the beginning.” 

 

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September 2018

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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
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Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
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This year will mark the eighth time the John F. Kennedy Awards have been celebrated, honoring individuals making a significant contribution to Oklahoma, its communities and its people, while paying...

Cost: $300

Where:
Skirvin Hilton Hotel
1 Park Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: Santa Fe Family Life Center
Telephone: 405-840-1817
Contact Name: James Timberlake
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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
Website »

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Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
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Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

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Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

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A fabulous art auction to raise money to help support Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO.

Cost: $100

Where:
CHK|Central Boathouse
732 Riversport Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73129
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Sponsor: Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO
Telephone: 405.974.3791
Contact Name: Heather Bryant
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The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

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Join supporters in communities across the nation for the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This family-friendly event raises funds to support the...

Cost: $10 for adults or children six and older

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S. Lake Hefner Drive
Oklahoma City , OK  73116
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Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

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Let’s end childhood cancer. Together! This September, supporters across the country will unite to participate in the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer, an exciting, family-friendly...

Cost: $10 for Registration

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S Lake Hefner Dr
Oklahoma City, OK  73116
View map »


Sponsor: ALSAC St. Jude Oklahoma City
Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

More information

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

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