It was a tumultuous time. Fear was something you worked through.
"The scariest thing about facing an anonymous enemy is that it could be anyone,” Clara Luper said about life in the late '50s and early '60s, a time when her home, life and children all were threatened by violence.
The source of the threats always lacked detail, like a strange car tailing them at night with its lights turned down, a muffled voice on the other end of a telephone line or the sound of rock shattering glass.
"We never knew who they were. They could have been anybody,” she said.
Luper looked around the room then. She smiled at her children, the ones she gave life to and the others, whom she taught so much about life.
"Of course I was scared,” she continued, and then pointed to a cluster of awards on the wall — a few of literally hundreds she has received during the course of her life — as if to say, but it was worth it.
She laughs about it now. But there was one night when she was too afraid to laugh. She had a car full of children, all protesters. One child noticed they were being followed. All week long, the evening news had shown national footage of protesters with dogs turned on them, protesters falling to police batons and being carted off with bloodied faces.
For a second, she doubted herself, wondering what she had gotten those children into.
Her hands gripped the steering wheel tightly. The dark car remained in the rearview mirror.
When she turned, it turned. No headlights. The figures inside were mere shadows. But just before fear turned to panic, she devised a plan.
She led the strange car into an all-black neighborhood and looked for a house with its porch lights on.
"I'm not going to stop,” she told the children. "I'm just going to slow down. When I say now, you kids run up to that house as fast as you can.”
A plan in action
As Clara Luper pulled slowly up to the curb, she started honking the car's horn repeatedly. She rolled down the car window and screamed "Help! Fire! Murder!” Soon, she saw a woman standing on the front porch, a little puzzled by all the commotion.