Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher

How would a black lady or gentleman enroll in the Oklahoma School of Law in 1948 if told, "Sorry, you cannot come here, because your race is not legally allowed to enroll here." And, to add insult to injury, the speaker says, "And, by the way, it would be unwise for you to forget ... please be sure to get out of Norman before sundown. If you are here after sundown, you could be arrested in this city. This is, after all, the city wherein resides the University of Oklahoma."

Unless you were in the the "OK" (white) class (and, to your credit, even if you were), please do NOT tell me that you would not either (1) go ape shit crazy or (2) stuff your feelings so much so that none would know them, other than yourself, and would wait to express yourself beligerently on another day and time because of the outrageous insult and offense you suffered on that day.

In 1948, if you were allowed to enroll and attend law school but were from a non-white race of people, fines could/would be assessed against the University's President, Law College instructors, and perhaps even students attending such a class (I think), not to mention penalties directed toward the presumptious and bodacious non-white student who would presume to be so bold as to enroll in a college/class that his/her white students could freely do ... even if there was no other college in the state in which you could go. "Outrageous" is simply an insufficient verbal term to express the sentiment and feeling that would rightly be due.


This post is the introduction to a post which will shortly follow this one, but this will get it started. It is a story not only about Lois Fisher, it is about your daugher and mine. It is a post about wrong and also what it takes to make the "wrong" history "right." Whether you agree with my chacterization or not, without a doubt, this story is a part of Oklahoma's history ... and since Norman is part of the OKC metro, it's part of OKC's history, as well. It's not OK to claim Norman as part of OKC's metro area and then to disclaim it when convenient (although this would be a marvelously convenient time to do so), as I see it.

Lois knew that she was bucking the white establablishment when she attempted to enroll in OU's law school in 1948, even if she was willing to agree to get out of Norman by "sunset" in order to do so. Norman was one of the stained cities in Oklahoma that had a "sunset" law - leave town by sunset if you are not a favored race. It was not a bad joke, it was very serious, and it was a monstrously "black mark" time for all of the state, the University of Oklahoma, the City of Norman, and all other parts of the state vicariously included that would tolerte such outrageous conduct.

This is a snyopsis, fairly stated, I think, of the backdrop in 1948 when one very bodacious black lady set the wheels in motion which would change things forever (one would hope) and who would be a local and national pioneer, for your son or daughter and mine or you, yourself.

Her name was Ada Lois Sipeuel Fisher . She attempted to enroll in the University of Oklahoma School of Law in 1948, only 56 years ago from today. Look at the beautiful lady, above. She could easily be your daughter, or mine ... or, perhaps, she could be "you" or your sister.

Regardless, it is of far greater importance in life's scheme than getting screwed royally in a football game somewhere in the upper northwest part of the Pacific northwest. OU, as a football team, certainly got screwed against Oregon last Saturday by the PAC 10 officials. But, in perspective, Ada Lois got screwed by the officials in Norman and Oklahoma 56 years before ... no instant replays available, just plain ol' writers like me and others who are more creditable! I'll avoid making an Oregon football game analogy, but it doesn't take much imagination for you to do that for yourself ... where is the first botched penalty, where is the second ...

This post is about what Ada Lois did to make it right for your daughter and mine and, with due respect to the Sooner Nation, what she did is of far greater importance and consequence than a weekend warrior's game which focuses itself on an oblog pointed ball ... and as important as that oblong ball immediately is for the Sooner Nation's self esteem.

This post also somewhat honors one white guy, George Lynn Cross, then President of the University of Oklahoma, who indirectly helped this lady to get where she deserved to be, even if he only had the internal wherewithall to do so indirectly. For that, he gets some, but no magnificient points, from me. George Lynn Cross could have taken a different course by just flat out admitting this lady to the law school and the taking the heat on himself, but that was not his chosen course. So, sure, I'll give him a couple of social points given the enviornment at the time, but I'll give him nothing at all for bravery and doing the right thing which it seems that was the right thing to do. Everything is relative, though, and, maybe, I'm being too harsh. It is certainly true that he helped this brave lady, even if indirectly. And, were I in his shoes, it's hard to say that I'd have done better than him, though I wish that I would have.

That is Thurgood Marshall in the left pic (center) and Cross & Fisher in the right, as they were honored by the state at an OU Board of Regents induction ceremony.

This is the introduction to the post I'll make in a few days or whenever.

I don't know how many of you may have noticed the very fine article in last Sunday's 9/17/2006 Oklahoman, but the 4 page "Promotional Supplement" carried a magnificent story/article about Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher and her endeavors to become the first black female admittee to the University of Oklahoma Law School.

Sad to say, the Oklahoman's article is not available in the Oklahoman's "on-line" space either the regualar or archived Oklahoman's websites. What a pitty, because this is one of the better pieces available from the Oklahoman in recent days. In that void, I'll repost entire article here until I'm authoritatively told not do to so.

So, what I've decided to do is to post the entirety of the article here at Doug Dawgz Blog, including scanned images from the article, two of which are above. I'd suppose it to be quite possible that I'd get an invitation from the Oklahoman to cease and desist, which, if received, I will honor. So, this post and the lengthier one which I intend to follow this one, containing the full Oklahoman aricle, may be very short-lived. If so, enjoy this topic's posts while you can!

And, there you are ... life in the big city ... Oklahoma City style.


Anonymous said...

Fourth paragraph, third line- Characterization not "chacterization".
Fifth paragraph, first line- she applied January 14, 1946 and was finally admitted June 18, 1949. The only thing that happened in 1948 was the supreme court made it's decision and OU created Langston University Law School located in the states capital which was not equal to the law school where white students studied.
Paragraph eight, line four- credible not "creditable"

Also George Lynn Cross did not just admit her because it was against the law. Whether or not he agreed with it he had an obligation to abide by it. Helping indirectly was the most he could do and should have done, he deserves more than just "a couple of social points".

I normally would not be so critical of a blog but I am doing research on Ada Sipuel and unfortunately your piece comes up when her name is typed into Google. I know that you are not a credible source but others may not and may actually use the false information you put in here. The least you could do is a few minutes of fact checking if you are going to put your thoughts online. Also if you are going to write often and you want others to read it you should work on your flow (and many other things). It was tough to read.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks for your anonymous remarks. Although snarkily presented, I'll look at what I've written in a few days and make corrections where needed ... after I check some other sources.