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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 13 August 2008

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The 50th anniversary of sit-ins that led to the desegregation of Oklahoma City eating establishments is being commemorated this week.
On Aug. 19, 1958, civil rights leader Clara Luper coordinated one of the nation's early publicized sit-ins at the Katz Drug Store lunch counter.
At the time, blacks had to get their meals at a back door of the restaurant. Luper, then a young history teacher, took students from the NAACP Youth Council to the store, where they endured racial slurs and threats of violence while waiting at the counter for drinks that never came. Within days, the store changed its policy and served the black students.
Such sit-ins continued for the next six years at segregated businesses in Oklahoma.
"I don't think any of us knew what we were doing would change the course of history," said Marilyn Hildreth, Luper's daughter.
One of the original Oklahoma City sit-in participants, 57-year-old Ayanna Najuma of Washington, D.C., said she also didn't realize her actions would have long-term ramifications.
"Whoever knew the impact of the work I did as a kid would open all these doors for America after 50 years?" Najuma said.
The Freedom Center is hosting events this week to recall the sit-ins, culminating with a day honoring Luper on Saturday.
"We lived in history. We were a part of history," said Samuel Craig, who spoke Sunday at a Friendship Baptist Church. "No one could have put together the civil rights movement like Clara Luper."
Luper said she still thinks more could have been done during the civil-rights movement, a sentiment echoed by Najuma.
"The one thing I would like to remind people is that that was only the beginning of the journey," Najuma said of the sit-ins. "It's important that people don't take freedom for granted."

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