Sunday, June 29, 2008

Join us in Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Dockum Sit-in

In the Summer of 1958, two dozen young people from the Wichita NAACP Youth council staged what would become the first successful student-led sit-in of the Civil Rights Movement. On August 11th, 1958, they desegregated all of the Rexall Drug Stores throughout the State of Kansas. Their efforts validated a method of protest, which was replicated by other NAACP branches around the country and later by groups such as the SCLC, and led to the establishment of equal accommodations around the nation...
On August 9th, 2008 - Join with the members of the 1958 Wichita NAACP Youth Council, the 2008 Wichita NAACP Youth Council, the NAACP National Office, and the Wichita Branch as we March to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Dockum Sit-in

The March will begin at 10:30am on August 9th, in front of the Kansas African American Museum.

We will march by the site of the Historic sit-in and then continue over for a rally and celebration in Chester I Lewis Reflection Park.

Celebration Speakers will include: NAACP Chief of Field Operations- Rev Nelson Rivers &
Dr. Ron Walters: President of the 1958 NAACP Youth Council. Currently Dr. Walters holds positions as "Distinguished Leadership Scholar" and Director of the African American Leadership Institute in the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, and Full Professor in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland.

The Following is excerpted from "Dissent in Wichita" By Professor Gretchen Eick. Reprinted with permission by author

That weekend, Chester Lewis called a mass meeting at New Hope Baptist Church for Sunday afternoon, August 10. Many of Wichita's African Americans had come to the city from the South, seeking jobs and bringing with them a collective memory of white terror. For them, the action the students were taking was very frightening, especially after the episode with the gang of white youths. Lewis felt it important to let the black community know more about the sit-in and the students' plans and also soothe concerned parents who feared their children would be arrested. The church was packed. Some participants narrated the story of the sit-ins at Dockum's and asked for community support. They had decided to expand the sit-in to additional days of the week. There were many questions from the audience and many concerns, but by the end of the meeting there was great unity and solidarity. The students left the meeting knowing that the community was behind them and proud of them.

The following day, Monday, Carol Parks took her seat at the lunch counter along with a few other early arrivals. Ron was out of town for Army Reserve training, and Lequeatta was working as a lifeguard, not assigned to sit in until the afternoon shift. Carol saw a white man in his thirties or forties enter the store, glance to the back of the store where Wayne Williams stood, and say to him, "Serve them. I'm losing too much money." Stunned and exhausted, she and the other students drank a victory Coke at the lunch counter. Then Carol went home to tell her mother the news. Someone called Lequeatta at the pool, telling her that she need not come to the sit-in. Dockum's owner had changed the policy.

After Williams announced that they were to be served, Chester Lewis confirmed by a telephone call to the vice president of Dockum's "that he had instructed all of his managers, clerks, etc., to serve all people without regard to race, creed or color." The following day, Lewis wrote to Herb Wright, "On Monday, August 11, 1958, I held a conference with Walter Hieger, the vice president of the Dockum Chain Drug Stores and he agreed to abolish all discriminatory practices as of Monday morning, at 10: 00 a.m. August 11." The youths had won. The largest drugstore chain in Kansas had desegregated not only its Wichita stores but also all Rexall Drug Stores in Kansas.

Pictured above are members of the 1958 Wichita Branch NAACP Youth Council along with Governor Sebelius and Congressman Tiahrt ant the Wichita Branch 2006 Freedom Fund Banquet.

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