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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — In the midst of a nationwide controversy about teaching the history of race and race relations in the U.S., the daughter of famous civil rights leader Clara Luper holds out for accurate teaching of all of history.

“We have a responsibility to teach history the way it was, not the way we want it to be,” said Marilyn Hildreth, daughter of famed Oklahoma City Civil Rights leader Clara Luper.

This comes at a time when school boards and even individual teachers are under pressure from extremists who believe that the ugly past of racial conflict is over and history teaching should not spend time dissecting it.

Hildreth and other relatives were at the new Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) administration building at NW 5th and Classen Monday, November 8 to see a floor-to-ceiling timeline and large photographic display of the efforts of Clara Luper whose efforts turned the tide against legalized segregation in Oklahoma and Oklahoma City.

The administration building has been named the Clara Luper Center for Educational Services to honor the leader.

Clara Luper led the first lunch counter and retail store sit-ins in the United States here in Oklahoma City. She was arrested for breaking segregation laws by simply sitting down numerous times in Oklahoma City and Lawton during the 1960s.

Eventually she and others were able to create enough public sympathy to break down the strict laws segregating Blacks and Whites in Oklahoma City but it involved many days and nights in and out of jail to do it.

Teaching that history has been a staple of both Oklahoma history and American History teaching for decades since.

All of history

Luper was asked in the news conference after the viewing to comment on the current efforts of some to stop schools from teaching the history of racial struggle in the U.S. which some incorrectly associate with an academic theory called Critical Race Theory or CRT.

To the question of what she thought her mother would have said to the efforts, Hildreth responded thoughtfully but directly, disagreeing with the notions of eliminating instruction in the whole of racial history in the U.S.

“She would have said that American history is Black History. And Black history is White history. And White history is red history.”

“We all live here together and we can not teach history without teaching about everybody in this country,” said Hildreth. “Because everybody is important!”

Clara Luper
Marilyn Hildreth, daughter of civil rights leader Clara Luper, points to a photo of her mother as she talks with OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel November 8, 2021. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Face the facts

Free Press talked with Hildreth further after the news conference about the current efforts to stop certain parts of history from being taught.

Specifically, we asked about the notion that all of the ugly parts of race history are over and so that information doesn’t need to be taught any more.

She said that “until we face the facts of history” we cannot learn about each other.

“I can’t appreciate your history if I don’t know your history,” Hildreth told us. “And, you can’t [understand] my history unless you are taught it.”

Interview with the media

These are comments about the new timeline display featuring her mother and her answer to the media about the controversy created by people who don’t want the full racial history of the United States to be taught.

Last Updated November 14, 2021, 10:17 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor