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Documentary recounts civil rights movement in Oklahoma City

The Feb. 11, 2016, showing of director Julia Clifford’s documentary Children of the Civil Rights and the panel discussion that followed were very powerful and well received at The University of Tulsa.

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State Rep. Regina Goodwin (left) met historian Hannibal Johnson (center), Bill and Julia Clifford (right) and three original participants of the Oklahoma City restaurant sit-ins during Thursday’s film screening and discussion.

The panel consisted of three of the people who actually participated in the sit-ins as children; historian Hannibal Johnson of Tulsa; and Clifford’s father, who was a supporter of the movement. State Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, attended the screening and presented a proclamation from the State of Oklahoma to Clifford.

For six years, beginning in 1958, a group of black Oklahoma City children conducted sit-ins with their youth adviser, Clara Luper. In 1960, whites joined the peaceful protests, and together, the group demonstrated until the Civil Rights Act took effect. Their sit-ins never really made national news, but nearly every restaurant in Oklahoma City desegregated before the Civil Rights Act became law. The documentary tells the story of these children and their commitment to equality.

“To think of the courage of these young children in the face of such potential violence and danger is awe-inspiring,” said Jacqueline Caldwell, TU’s vice president of diversity and engagement. “While the sit-ins in Oklahoma City were nonviolent, those in Alabama were not.”