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“On August 19, 1958, I Was Seven.” An Oklahoma City Woman Remembers Being a Child Activist

The sit-in movement was a cornerstone of the Civil Rights era, and perhaps best known for the Greensboro Four—a group of college students who sat in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in North Carolina in 1960. Rooted in nonviolence, sit-ins became a far-reaching advocacy strategy that spanned lunch counters, department stores, courtrooms, and the White House. 


Linda Benson, Ayanna Najuma, and Carolyn House (seated on the floor, left to right), staging a sit-in at Bishop’s Restaurant in Oklahoma City on May 31, 1963. Also pictured: Maurice Coffey, and Dwayne Cosby. Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society, John Melton Collection.

But while the Greensboro protest sparked the movement, one of the first sit-ins happened two years earlier at Katz Drug Store in Oklahoma City.


Church leaders and activists gathered in front of the Municipal Building in Oklahoma City in December 1960, with a sign reading, ‘I’m Doing My Christmas Shopping at Katz This Year.’  Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society, John Melton Collection

It was staged by children, and among them was 7-year-old Ayanna Najuma.  At StoryCorps, she remembered how it started with a NAACP Youth Council trip.

Top Photo: Ayanna Najuma (center) and other NAACP Youth Council staging a sit-in at Katz Drug Store in Oklahoma City on August 19, 1958. Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society, John Melton Collection.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired August 18, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“Fear” Wasn’t A Word His Father Knew: The Origins Of A Civil Rights Leader

Rev. Harry Blake grew up working on a cotton plantation in Louisiana. At an early age, he learned the delicate balance between standing up for yourself and survival. Entering adulthood he was drawn to the ministry, eventually becoming the Pastor of Mount Canaan Baptist Church, where he served for many decades.

Rev. Harry Blake in the mid 1960s as a young Pastor of Mount Canaan Baptist Church courtesy of Monica Mickle.

Blake became active in the Civil Rights movement and was invited by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to work for him at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He survived beatings, arrests and even an assassination attempt. 

Rev. Harry Blake (c) talks with Shreveport police outside a memorial service at the Little Union Baptist Church on Sept. 22, 1963. Local authorities refused a permit to hold a memorial for four girls killed in a bomb blast in Birmingham, Ala., several days earlier. When it appeared a march would be held anyway, a tense confrontation ensued. © Langston McEachern, Port Huron Times Herald via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In 2017 Rev. Blake came to StoryCorps with his daughter Monica Mickle. At the age of 85, Rev. Harry Blake Died from COVID-19 in the early months of the pandemic.

Top Photo: Monica Mickle and Rev. Harry Blake at their StoryCorps interview in Shreveport, Louisiana on October 30, 2017. By Madison Mullen for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired on January 13, 2023 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

 

 

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“The Black Vote Matters:” How An Army Veteran Inspired A Teenage Martin Luther King, Jr.

Warning, the following story includes a description of racial violence.

In 1945, World War II US Army veteran Maceo Snipes, returned home to Taylor County, Georgia. He voted in the county’s primary in July of 1946, and the next day, he was murdered by a white mob.

The news of Snipes’ lynching — and the killing of four other African Americans — reached a teenage Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., then studying at Morehouse College. These murders inspired King to write a letter to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

A teenage Dr. King’s letter to the editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. MLK was a Morehouse College student inspired to speak out following Maceo Snipes’ lynching. Courtesy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Raynita Snipes Johnson, Maceo Snipes’ great niece, only recently learned of her uncle’s story when she campaigned for Black voting rights in the 2016 presidential election.

Raynita Snipes Johnson at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The church was a destination for Martin Luther King, Jr. following a KKK bombing that killed four Black children in 1963. Photo courtesy of Raynita Snipes Johnson.

She sat down with her friend, Gene Robinson, to talk about her uncle’s contribution to the Civil Rights Movement.

Gene Robinson and Raynita Snipes Johnson at their StoryCorps Virtual recording on August 29, 2020.

 

Find out more about the effort to honor Maceo Snipes’ life at The Maceo Snipes 1946 Project.


Top Photo: United States Army veteran Maceo Snipes. He served in World War II, and was murdered shortly after returning home from service. Photo courtesy of Raynita Snipes Johnson.

This story was recorded in collaboration with the PBS series FRONTLINE as part of Un(re)solved— a major initiative documenting the federal effort to investigate more than 150 cold case murders dating back to the civil rights era. More such stories can be explored in an interactive documentary at Un(re)solved.

Originally aired January 14th, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition.