Black History

#BlackHistoryFacts for January 12: Sipuel v. Oklahoma decided, Biafra capitulates

21 Jan 1948, Norman, Oklahoma, USA — 1/21/1948-Norman, OK: Mrs. Ada Lois Sipuel, a Negro, is shown applying for admission to the Univ. of Oklahoma School of Law, after a long legal struggle culminating in a U.S. Supreme Court decision ordering the school to accept her. Reading the transcript of her record at Langston University is J.E. Fellows of the univ. office of admission and records. In rear are D.H. Williams of the Oklahoma AACP; Thurgood Marshall, NY attorney for NAACP; and Amos Hall, State Representative from Tulsa. (ORIGINAL CAPTION) — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

In 1948 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, who in 1946, applied to the Oklahoma University’s College of Law. Upon reviewing her credentials, the university’s president Dr. George Lynn Cross, stated that he didn’t see any academic reason why she shouldn’t be admitted to the school. However, the state of Oklahoma prohibited black and white students from attending classes together. At that time, it was a crime (misdemeanor) to instruct class with mixed races (black and white students in the same room). If she were accepted, Dr. Cross would have been fined $50 a day. The white students would have also been fined.

That same year, sued the school. She filed the lawsuit in Cleveland County District Court. Her lawyer was Thurgood Marshall, who would later go on to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. She lost her case and filed an appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, who sided with the university. So Fisher did what any person seeking justice would do. She went to the highest court in the United States – the U.S. Supreme Court. Unlike her first two cases, Fisher was successful in her case with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that the university has to provide Ms. Fisher with the same opportunities that they provide for other students. A new school named Langston University College of Law was set up in 5 days for Ms. Fisher to attend. She refused to attend. Her lawyers argued that the new school that was set up did not entitle Fisher to the same legal education demanded by the Supreme Court, that was equal to that of their white students. She had to make the same legal circles that she did the first time. She went to the Cleveland County Court who ruled against her. She went to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. They upheld the ruling. She then went to the U.S. Supreme Court again. Let’s put it this way about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling – the Langston University School of law was closed down.

Fisher was finally admitted to the University of Oklahoma. This was all during the era of Jim Crow, so while it was written that she was welcomed by her white classmates, Fisher had to sit in the back of the room. At the university, there were separate eating facilities, separate sections in the library and separate seats at sports games.

Fisher was able to get her master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma. She later practiced law and was the faculty at Langston university.

Today, there is a garden named in her honor on Norman campus.

 

In 1970, Biafra capitulates, putting an end to the Nigerian Civil War. The aftermath was certainly difficult. The Catholic humanitarian workers had to feed a defeated and hungry population because the Nigerian grabbed whatever that was left of the food. Food was ready to be shipped in from São Tomé. All the Nigerians had to do was tell them where and when to drop off the food. No orders were given. In what look like a prolonging of hopeless situations, the humanitarian workers continued to help and labor on.

Sources: Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher – Oklahoma Historical Society

Book: Religion, History and Politics in Nigeria: Essays in Honor of Ogbu U. Kalu

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