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Press Release

January 21, 2014

Bruce Fisher
Oklahoma Historical Society

Oklahoma Historical Society Plans Special Event to Celebrate Black History Month

Oklahoma City, Okla. - The Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) presents "It's a Celebration" to kick off Black History Month on Saturday, February 1, 2014, at the Oklahoma History Center. Special guest speaker Governor David Walters will provide reflections on key appointments made during his administration. The celebration will include a preview of the new African American exhibit "Realizing the Dream," performance of the 1938 Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Writers Project radio play "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" and musical entertainment by the All Funk Radio Show band from Arlington, Texas. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program begins at 6:30 p.m. The new African American exhibit will be open for self-guided tours from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Admission is free.

The exhibit includes a reconstruction of civil rights leader Clara Luper's living room, complete with hands-on samples of the hundreds of scrapbooks that she kept, radio segments from her forty years of broadcasting the "Clara Luper Radio Show" and her Scrabble board game. "Scrabble was her favorite pastime entertainment," said Bruce Fisher, administrative programs officer for the Oklahoma Historical Society.

"We are fortunate that the Luper family decided to preserve this massive collection of Clara Luper's photos, documents and speeches and in 2012 place them at the OHS. Her home of nearly 40 years was destroyed by fire this past August, during the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington."

The Lewis's Barber Shop portion of the exhibit includes a barber's chair owned by the founder of the Northeast Retailers Association, Richard Lewis. The barber shop and his adjacent Soul Boutique fashion store were located near 23rd and Eastern and were the epicenter of the "black is beautiful" cultural transformation in Oklahoma City. The jukebox in the barber shop tells the story of the cultural revolution that swept across America during the mid-1960s and early 1970s.

The celebration also will include the WPA Federal Writers Project play "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." The manuscript was discovered in the OHS archives by Larry O'Dell in 2004. It was learned that it was originally broadcast on KOMA radio on Saturday, November 26, 1938. Sharon Fisher, who first directed the play in 2004 at the OHS, was asked to direct a new, abbreviated version of the play. The Loving St. James Baptist Church Praise Team will provide the musical renditions. In 2011 Senator Judy McIntyre authored the bill that made "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" the Oklahoma State Gospel Song. Governor Mary Fallin signed the bill into law on April 26, 2011.

Governor David Walters will provide reflections on key appointments made during his administration, including Ada Sipuel Fisher to the University Of Oklahoma Board Of Regents, Oscar Jackson as Cabinet Secretary of Human Resources and the recommendation that led to the presidential appointment of General Tom Daniels, Oklahoma's first African American Air Force general of the Oklahoma Air National Guard. These stories and many others are included in the exhibit. The celebration will culminate with two hours of continuous musical entertainment provided by the All Funk Radio Show band. 

Admission is free.

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