When I first became active in the Civil Rights movement I was in an organization that was called NAACP Youth Corps. Our group was rather small in the beginning, and there were several different races represented within our group. Eventually, we grew in number, however, continued to be diverse in ethnicity.
I was fifteen years old when I first met with this group. We were organized in the beginning to discuss racial relations within our own areas. Oklahoma, while not usually considered south, was primarily made up of natives from southern states. The Ku Klux Klan was active early on, and there were large groups of White citizens Council cells all over the state. They called themselves by different names, but they were generally all the same in their outlook on race relations. Historically, the Klan has remained active in the state of Oklahoma from statehood, until today.
I remember our group being very young, and very anxious to right the wrongs that we had discussed for a period of time. At that time in the history of this state, the schools remained segregated for the most part although according to the supreme court it was illegal to do so. Basically, we found that segregation remained due largely to the fact that Blacks lived in one area of the city, while the rest of the city was mainly white. Busing was not yet an alternative, so the schools remained 'Separate but equal', which we also found in our research that these schools were indeed separate, but not nearly equal.
We heard of 'sit ins' and marches being held in other parts of the country, but we hestitated to join in these events at first. Eventually, after I entered college in 1959, and continued being a member of this group, we decided that we had to be more vocal and we reasoned that the good people of our own city would see where they were wrong, we were right and then things would change. Only goes to show you the huberis of the young, and how very wrong you can be!
We made statements to the newpapers and announced that we would begin 'sitting in' in various restaurants in the area. Another mistake of our own huberis! The police were waiting for us to show up, and when we did we were immediately jailed for causing a public distrubance. We were hearded into police cars and a large truck and hauled to the local jail. There we were immediately fingerprinted, and had our pictures taken and then thrown in to jail cells with drunks, and other hoodlums that were there.
A couple of friends of ours who were attorneys, heard about the arrests and came down to bail us out. That was our first experience with the legal system, but certainly not our last. Eventually, most all of us were arrested in both major cities in Oklahoma, and other states as well. The police were not our friends either, I might add. Most of them were very angry at what we were doing, and most of them were angry that there were white kids and black kids in our group. They were insulting with their language, and eventually herded us like cattle into large trucks to be hauled off to the nearest jail. They used their clubs and nightsticks generously on us to persuade us to move more quickly as well.
Our battles were many, but we continued to believe in our cause, and most of us still do.