We Know We Belong to the Land - A Hundred Years of Oklahoma and the Congress
America in Turmoil
A buoyant national spirit had arisen with the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy, the first president born in the 20th century.  Despite this optimism, the nation endured one of its most turbulent eras between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s. Not since the Civil War had there been such internal turmoil. The civil rights movement, stirring since the 1950s, now burst upon the scene, rending the nation's social fabric. The escalating American involvement in the Vietnam Conflict caused equally deep wounds. Lyndon B. Johnson, victor in the 1964 election landslide and father of the Great Society, fell victim to the war.
Students staging a sit-in at Katz Drug Store in Oklahoma City

Left: On August 19, 1958, school teacher Clara Luper and thirteen members of the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council went to the whites-only lunch counter at the Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City.  They were refused service, but the young black students, as well as others, were not deterred.  Sit-ins were held again at Katz and other segregated facilities around the state until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made segregation in public accommodations illegal.  (Courtesy The Oklahoma Publishing Company, copyright 1958)

John F. Kennedy with Robert S. Kerr in front of a crowd at Big Cedar, Oklahoma
Above: In the fall of 1961, President John F. Kennedy traveled to Big Cedar, Oklahoma, to dedicate "a mountain road that starts nowhere in particular and goes to a suburb of the same place." The president was also spent the night at Robert S. Kerr’s ranch near Poteau. The president knew he needed a powerful senator like Kerr on his side to ensure passage of his programs.

President Johnson with members of the Kerner Commission

In July 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson (seated at center) signed the executive order creating the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. Named to the eleven-member commission was Fred R. Harris (D-OK, 1964-1972), Oklahoma’s junior U.S. senator (standing fourth from the left).  Comprised of business, political, and civil rights leaders, the group investigated the causes behind some of the worst racial and civil riots plaguing the nation’s cities. Harris played a leading role on the commission and called for extensive federal programs to rebuild urban areas.  Also shown are chair Otto Kerner (to the left of LBJ) and vice chair and New York City major John Lindsay (to the right of LBJ).  Next to Kerner is Roy Wilkins, executive director of the NAACP. To the right of Harris is Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.
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