Dockum Drug Store sit-in

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The Dockum Drug Store sit-in was one of the first organized lunch counter sit-ins for the purpose of integrating segregated establishments in the United States.[1] The protest began in July 1958 in Wichita, Kansas at the Dockum Drug Store, a store in the old Rexall chain, in which protesters would sit at the counter all day until the store closed, ignoring taunts from counterprotesters. The sit-in ended three weeks later when the owner relented and agreed to serve black patrons.[1]

Twenty-year-old Ron Walters, president of the local NAACP Youth Council, organized the Wichita protest together with his cousin Carol Parks-Hahn. Wichita was heavily segregated in the late 1950s, with schools segregated up to high school and blacks excluded from public accommodations. While working at a job in downtown Wichita, Walters went for lunch to a Woolworth's store, which would only serve blacks bagged lunches sold from one end of the lunch counter. Seeking to find a way to protest against the practice, Walters and his cousin Carol Parks-Hahn met with attorney Frank Williams, who described a sit-in by students at a California college who ended segregation at a campus restaurant by occupying it with students reading newspapers all day long. The protest was inspired by the actions of the Little Rock Nine and the earlier Montgomery Bus Boycott.[2] The plan they developed targeted Dockum, a downtown store that was part of the national Rexall chain, which had a lunch counter that only served white customers, starting on July 19, 1958, with ten well-dressed and polite students seeking to place orders while sitting at the lunch counter. Parks-Haun ordered a Coca-Cola from a waitress, who served it to her but then pulled it back when she realized that "store policy was not to serve colored people". Students sat quietly all day at the counters, enduring taunts and threats from white customers. After three weeks, in early August, the manager came in and said "Serve them — I'm losing too much money". Historian Gretchen Eick called the Dockum Drug Store sit-in as setting "a precedent that really began what would be a very significant strategy — a strategy that would change the way business was done in the United States". Ultimately, all of the Dockum locations in Kansas were desegregated.[3]

Though the Dockum sit-in had attracted little media attention, on August 19, 1958 in Oklahoma City a nationally recognized sit-in at the Katz Drug Store lunch counter occurred. The protest there was led by NAACP Youth Council leader Clara Luper, a local high school teacher, together with young local students, including Luper's eight-year old daughter, who had suggested the sit-in be held. The group quickly desegregated the Katz Drug Store lunch counters. Following the Oklahoma City sit-ins, the tactic of non-violent student sit-ins spread. The widely publicized Greensboro sit-ins began more than a year later at a Woolworth's in Greensboro, North Carolina, starting on February 1, 1960, launching a wave of anti-segregation sit-ins across the South and opened a national awareness of the depth of segregation in the nation.[4][5]

A 20-foot-long bronze sculpture first announced in 1998 at a cost of $3 million marks the site of the successful sit-in, with a lunch counter and patrons depicting the protest.[6]

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References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Hevesi, Dennis. "Ronald Walters, Rights Leader and Scholar, Dies at 72", The New York Times, September 14, 2010.
  2. ^ Walters, Ronald. "Standing up in America's heartland - 1950s' civil rights movement history in Wichita, Kansas", American Visions, February-March 1993. Accessed September 15, 2010.
  3. ^ Eckels, Carla. "Kansas Sit-In Gets Its Due at Last", National Public Radio, October 21, 2006. Accessed September 15, 2010.
  4. ^ Zuercher, Melanie. "Dockum sit-in film premieres on MLK Day", Newton Kansan, January 16, 2009. Accessed September 15, 2010.
  5. ^ Brady, Caroline. "50th Anniversary of Dockum Sit-In", WIBW-TV, August 9, 2008. Accessed September 15, 2010.
  6. ^ Staff. "SERVING UP HISTORY AT THE PARK A 20-FOOT BRONZE SCULPTURE OF A LUNCH COUNTER WILL GRACE A $3 MILLION DOWNTOWN PARK. THE ARTWORK FEATURES THE LIKENESSES OF TWO WICHITANS AND PAYS TRIBUTE TO CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS.", The Wichita Eagle, February 4, 1998. Accessed September 15, 2010.