Bruce Fisher serves as director of special projects for the Oklahoma Historical Society and was curator of the exhibit. His mother was pregnant with him during her last months in law school. He retires at months end.
Fisher’s law school classroom seat was in the back, chained off from the white students under a sign that read, “colored.” She couldn’t live in Norman or stay here after sundown.
“Dad worked at Tinker Field and he would drop her off early in the morning and pick her up at night or she would stay with friends in Oklahoma City,” Fisher said.
Fisher said despite its unjust policies his mother loved OU. Gov. David Walters appointed her to the OU Board of Regents.
“In our family we say she went from the colored chair to the Regents chair,” Bruce Fisher said.
The exhibit includes historic signs and artifacts from African American barber and beauty shops in the Deep Deuce area of Oklahoma City. A projector was saved and restored from the old Jewel Theatre on NE 4th. The Walker Hardware sign from the store on NE 2nd hangs nearby. The lunch counter where students staged a sit-in in downtown Oklahoma City is recreated.
The beauty and barber shops were significant in that women wanted to imitate the European standards of beauty. It also opened new doors of employment.
“After slavery ended the only professions Black women could have were teachers or domestic workers,” Bruce Fisher said. “It gave Black women a chance to go from domestic worker to entrepreneur.”
The exhibit looks at the dozens of historically Black towns in Oklahoma. A darker side details lynchings, race riots and attempts at racial reconciliation. Fisher told the story of watching some youngsters staring at the side-by-side water fountains in the exhibit. One was marked white and the other marked colored.
“They wanted to know what color the water was supposed to be,” he said. “They just had no idea what those signs meant.”
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