Behold the Walls
Behold the Walls
by Clara Luper, Edited by Karlos K. Hill and Bob L. Blackburn
On August 19, 1958, Clara Luper and thirteen Black youth walked into Katz Drug Store in Oklahoma City and sat down at the lunch counter. When they tried to order, they were denied service. As they sat in silence, refusing to leave, the surrounding white customers unleashed a torrent of threats and racial slurs. This first organized sit-in in Oklahoma—almost two years before the more famous sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina—sparked other demonstrations in Oklahoma and other states. Behold the Walls is Luper’s engrossing firsthand account of how the movement she helped launch ended legal racial segregation.
First published in 1979, Behold the Walls now features a new introduction and 33 newly selected historical photos. Luper’s direct, unvarnished account captures the immediacy of the events she witnessed. As a Black woman, Luper refused to let either racism or sexism deter her from stepping forth as a leader. Born in 1923, Clara Luper taught history in Oklahoma public schools and led the NAACP Youth Council. The students who sat in at Katz Drug and other businesses belonged to that organization. Luper highlights the contributions of others, especially young people, in breaking down the walls of segregation in Oklahoma through numerous demonstrations, marches, and voter registration campaigns.
This commemorative edition of Luper’s eye-opening autobiography, published near what would have been her 100th birthday, as well as the 65th anniversary of the sit-ins, offers invaluable insight into the history of protest in the early years of the civil rights movement. With racial inequality still at the forefront of national debate, Behold the Walls places Luper’s efforts in the larger national context of the struggle to resist injustice and inspire positive change.