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History

Kansas African-American Museum Receives Grant To Commemorate Dockum Sit-In

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Courtesy of The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum Association
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Dockum Drugs, Broadway & Douglas, circa 1955

The Kansas Health Foundation, the state’s largest philanthropic organization, gave the Kansas African-American Museum a $50,000 grant on Thursday to commemorate the 1958 Dockum Drug Store sit-in.

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Credit Mark McCormick
Two 1958 Dockum Drug Store sit-in participants receive a standing ovation as the grant is announced.

Two Dockum sit-in participants received a standing ovation when the foundation's CEO Steve Coen made the announcement during a symposium at the Kansas Leadership Center.

Coen told the audience a permanent exhibit will be established at what is now the Ambassador Hotel, the former location of the Dockum Drug Store.

The sit-in is considered the first successful student-led sit-in the U.S., which eventually led to the integration of the chain of Rexall Drug Stores.

Joan Williams was one of the African-American teenagers who sat in protest back in 1958 at the Dockum Drug Store lunch counter without being served.

"It’s just heartwarming for us to have been ordinary people, ordinary teenagers," Williams says. "At that time, we had a leader that was a young man, Ronnie Walters, who prepared us for all of this and we did not really have a clue of how huge this would be in everyone’s life, especially today."

Galyn Vesey, another Dockum participant, agrees.

"It's always inspiring and uplifting, especially since so much time has lapsed," Vesey says.

He says the sit-in was not an individual effort.

"If it had not been for all of us, including attorney Chester Lewis, and Rosie Hughes, who was our mentor, and then the adults who were members of the NAACP, who lent their support, their homes, for meetings that we had," Vesey says. "It reinforces that anytime anything is done for the sake of humanity it is noticed and will be remembered."

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Credit Carla Eckels / KMUW
Mark McCormick, Joan Williams and Galyn Vesey.

Kansas African-American Museum President Mark McCormick says the museum will seek input on what the commemoration should look like and where it should be placed.

"Should it be on the corner, should it be inside the building? There’s a lot to figure out yet, but it’s nice to have the resources to do whatever we figure out we want to do," he says.

Wherever it is, McCormick says it will be a lasting tribute to a significant historical event in downtown Wichita.

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Carla Eckels is assistant news director and the host of Soulsations. Follow her on Twitter @Eckels.

 
To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.