Dockum Drug Store Sit-In
When the Dockum Drug Store sit-in first happened in July 1958, few heard about it or recognized its importance. The sit-in was a student-led effort to end segregation. The two local daily newspapers published little about it, avoiding the negative association with the protest. The local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gave moral support, but did not participate in the student effort. Despite the silence surrounding the event, the students claimed their place in Kansas and national history.
The Dockum Drug Store, like many of the other popular eateries in downtown Wichita, refused to serve African Americans at the counter. If they wished to purchase food in the restaurant, they had to order it at the end of the counter, and take it to go. Carol Parks Hahn, one of the planners of the sit-in, spoke of the embarrassment of being treated this way. "You'd come in and go to the end of this counter and when you were served anything, it was in disposable containers," she said. "We never knew what it was to just sit there and have a glass and dishes." In order to try and put an end to this segregation Parks-Haun and her cousin Ron Walters decided to test the policy with a sit-in effort. Both were members of the local NAACP Youth Council, and felt equality needed to be brought to Wichita. At the time the city was segregated. As Walters put it, "It was Mississippi up north. So we tried to break it down….”
Starting July 19, 1958, Walters and Parks-Haun, with other young students, began entering the drugstore every day and filling the stools at the counter. They asked only that they be served a soft drink. They were neat and quiet, and caused no fuss. But the management continued to refuse service. The concept of peaceful resistance was fairly new at that time but would become common within a few years.
For a month the students continued to fill to drug store. A few white patrons cursed at them and questioned them, but the students held strong. Only a couple a times were they threatened. Finally on August 11 the owner relented, saying, “Serve them — I'm losing too much money.” This victory for the students became a victory for equality in Kansas. With one downtown store no longer practicing segregation, other retail establishments slowly began to change their policies in Wichita and throughout the Kansas. On August 19 NAACP Youth Council students in Oklahoma City, who had been in contact with Walters, began their own sit-in. On February 1, 1960, students in Greensboro, North Carolina, staged similar sit-ins with the concept of peaceful resistance.
For many years this remarkable story went unknown beyond the group of participants. A Wichita historian researched the student's efforts and helped to bring the story to light. As part of the 50th anniversary observance, on August 9, 2008, the city of Wichita honored those young people who had fought for equality.
Entry: Dockum Drug Store Sit-In
Author: Kristina Gaylord
Date Created: June 2011
Date Modified: November 2013
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.