Integration is the ending of segregation and allowing whites, blacks, and all races to be together whether in schools, buses, or movie theaters. Many people in Oklahoma, such as Clara Luper, and others nationwide worked to end segregation and bring about integration. All public schools, including those in Oklahoma, had to desegregate their schools because of a court case in 1954 called Brown v. Board of Education. Universities, however, also needed to be integrated.
Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, from Oklahoma, was a leader in the nationwide Civil Rights Movement. Fisher dreamed of being a lawyer, but Langston University, an all-black college she attended, did not have a law school. Colleges and universities were segregated, so Fisher was not allowed to attend a school in Oklahoma that had a law school. She decided to apply for the law program at the University of Oklahoma anyway. The university denied her admission due to the segregation laws. She filed a lawsuit against the school. Amos T. Hall and Thurgood Marshall were her lawyers. Jake Simmons helped fund her case. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The case, Sipuel v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, declared that she must be allowed the same opportunities for education as everyone else. After three years, in 1949, she was allowed to attend the University of Oklahoma. Fisher became a lawyer and, in 1992, the governor of Oklahoma chose her to be on the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, the same school that denied her admission.
Fisher and fellow African American students, although allowed to attend universities in Oklahoma, were still segregated within the schools. The school forced Fisher to sit in a chair with a chain around it and a sign over it that read, “Colored.” They sat in a different part of the cafeteria and in a separate, back part of the classroom. An African American student from Oklahoma, George W. McLaurin, took this issue to court. In 1950 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents that this was not allowed.
With the efforts of Oklahomans and people nationwide, black and white, that participated in the Civil Rights Movement, our society changed so that all people, no matter the color of their skin, can be together whether in school, at home, or in public places. However, today, people do not always treat each other with fairness and respect. Bullying continues to be a problem in school, but you can continue to help the Civil Rights Movement’s goals of equality and respect for everyone by making a friend with a classmate who may be different from you or standing up to someone who may be bullying a classmate or friend.
Ada Fisher signing the Registrar of Attorneys, 1952
(21412.M657.12, Barney Hillerman Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society Research Division).
Ada Fisher’s University of Oklahoma State Board of Regents robe and mortarboard, c. 1992 (2001.129.001, Bruce Fisher Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society Collections).