Archive for Monday, August 11, 2008

Wichita sit-in protest honored

August 11, 2008


— Nine people who defied the status quo - and the national NAACP branch - when they filled stools at a Wichita drug store's segregated lunch counter 50 years ago have received an apology and a key to the city.

On Saturday, about 300 people crammed into the Kansas African American Museum for a ceremony to honor the people who as youths staged what is known today as the Dockum Drugs sit-in. A march through downtown Wichita drew about 500 people.

"On behalf of the city, we're sorry for what happened to you and for what you went through," Mayor Carl Brewer told the sit-in participants.

It was July 1958, and the youth group of Wichita Branch NAACP got permission from the adult branch leader, Chester I. Lewis, to stage the sit-in despite opposition from the national branch.

The youths came in shifts for about three weeks to keep the stools filled at the Dockum Drug Store before the Dockum owners agreed to desegregate the lunch counter, the counters at its eight other Wichita stores and at Rexall Drug Stores across Kansas.

The sit-in prompted similar protests weeks later in Oklahoma City and other places across the Midwest.

The Wichita branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been working for two years to raise the profile of the sit-in. Sit-in participant Daisy Blue also gives credit to local historian Gretchen Eick for helping bring recognition of the protest through her book, "Dissent in Wichita."

"It's her day, too," Blue said. "She made it happen for us."


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