For many young people in Oklahoma, the civil rights movement is something that happened somewhere else, in a different time. But at Langston University, the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. hits closer to home.
Oklahoma's only historically black college was at the center of civil rights issues in the state, and several Langston alumni fought some of the most important battles.
Langston roommates Nancy Randolph Davis and Ada Lois Sipuel went on to become the first black students to enroll at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma law school, respectively.
Another notable alumna, Clara Luper, was among the leaders of the Oklahoma City sit-in movement in the late 1950s.
One of today's Langston students, Kavaris Sims, said the university's role in the civil rights movement is always present and is taught to every student.
“To have that history and for (professors) to give us that knowledge and letting us know that we are part of a legacy, it's awesome,” Sims said.
“We are always enthused about it.”
Sims said when he hears stories from alumni about the struggles they went through, he is appreciative of how lucky he is to have the opportunities he sometimes take for granted.
“I think our generation has had the privilege of not seeing that side of American history,” Sims said. “It's a part of America whether we truly accept it or not.”
Betty Black, director of libraries at Langston, said many students will take advantage of the day off Monday and go to Oklahoma City or Guthrie to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parades. Oklahoma City's parade will begin at 2 p.m. at Broadway Avenue and NW 7. Guthrie's parade will be at noon Monday.