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African & African American Studies

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Welcome to the Clara Luper Department of African & African American Studies at OU!

The Clara Luper Department  of African & African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma (AFAM) is notable as the first degree-granting department of its kind in Oklahoma. For over forty years, AFAM courses have offered students the opportunity to learn, discuss, and research histories, cultures, literatures, methods, data, and intellectual debates relevant to the discipline. The department is interdisciplinary with faculty representing the Arts, Humanities, Sciences, and Social Sciences. Students majoring in AFAM learn from award-winning professors who are researchers and scholars active in their respective fields. 

In the spirit of our namesake, Clara Luper, AFAM has a community-engaged mission. All AFAM majors enroll in a Senior Capstone course with an embedded internship component. Through our scholarship, teaching, and service we aim to facilitate dialogue between those on campus and in the community via education and civic engagement. We sponsor and co-sponsor campus events, partner with local community organizations on initiatives, and faculty have received grant funding for community-based research. 

Career Opportunities

AFAM courses teach students skills that will allow them to succeed in any workplace environment. Students majoring in the academic program develop skills in critical thinking, multicultural awareness, communication, writing, data collection, textual analysis, archival research, and problem-solving. Learning about topics ranging from political history to healthcare allows graduates to stand out to potential employers seeking well-rounded global citizens.

Our graduates choose to either continue their education in graduate and professional programs or enter the workforce directly after college. Current alumni are employed in the following professional areas:

  • Archives and Museums
  • City Planning
  • Community Organizing 
  • Creative Arts and Digital Media
  • Education
  • General Business
  • Healthcare 
  • Journalism
  • Law
  • Local and State Politics
  • Nonprofit Organizations/NGOs
  • Social Services
  • Sport Administration/Sport Management

Biography of Clara Luper

Clara LuperKnown as the “Mother of the Oklahoma Civil Rights Movement,” Clara Mae Shepard Luper was born in 1923 in rural Okfuskee County, Oklahoma. Her father, Ezell Shepard, was a World War I veteran and laborer, and her mother, Isabell Shepard, worked as a laundress. As a child, she was raised in Hoffman, Oklahoma.  She went to high school in the historic Oklahoma Black town of Grayson. In 1944, she received a B.A. in mathematics with a minor in history from Langston  University (OK). In 1950, Luper was one of a group of African American students who integrated the graduate programs at the University of Oklahoma, where she received an M.A. in  History Education in 1951.

In 1957, as Clara Luper worked as a history teacher at Dunjee High School (east of Oklahoma City), she also became the advisor for the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council. At this time, she was deeply influenced by the  success of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. From 1958 to 1964, Luper mentored members of the NAACP Youth Council during its campaign to end the segregation of public accommodations in Oklahoma City through sit-ins, protests, and boycotts. While instrumental in leading integration in Oklahoma, Luper also led campaigns in Oklahoma City to gain equal banking rights, employment opportunities, open housing and voting rights for all citizens.