Home This Week in OKC History Events Waiting Six Hours For Lunch

Main Menu

RSS Feed


What is the most historic building in Oklahoma City?
Waiting Six Hours For Lunch PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Lackmeyer   
Monday, 25 August 2008 03:05

August 24, 2008 - Fifty years ago this week, a group of black youths led by Clara Luper entered downtown’s John A. Brown’s, bought magazines and books, and then took their seats in the department store’s luncheonette and waited to be served.

These days, such an act would be a nothing deal. But in 1958, Luper and her young protesters were confronting laws and rules that dictated where minorities could and couldn’t gather.


And they certainly weren’t welcome at the John A. Brown’s luncheon counter. Waitresses did not ask for their orders and ignored them as they served white customers. The youths stayed until the store closed, day after day. The 36 children, ages 6 to 17, sat in the seats for six hours at a time. Similar protests at Katz drugstore and Kress variety store, had resulted in breaking down barriers – food and drink were eventually served at each store.

Police led by I.G. Purser kept the peace. Officers ordered one white woman to leave after she sat on the lap of one girl who was sitting alone at a table. A white man was ejected after started loudly criticizing the youths. Four white boys entered the luncheonette displaying a Confederate flag. Police seized the flag and the boys were ejected. Other customers left angrily when the children sat beside them. Other customers, however, paid no attention.

City Hall kept a close eye on the situation, but was unwilling to force the merchants to serve their customers. Reporters at the time noted Segregated seating in theaters and buses had been abandoned years earlier and that school integration, while “gradual,” had remained peaceful.

Luper told reporters she had faith that merchants would do the right thing.

“These people are Christian people and we love them,” she said. “We’re depending on Christians to come to our rescue, white and black. If Christianity fails, then we surrender.”

- "Negro Youths Continue Their Store Sitting," The Daily Oklahoman, Aug. 24, 1958


Last Updated on Monday, 25 August 2008 14:40