Shelby: You have probably heard about students who sat at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. But months earlier, there was another sit-in, just not as well known.
“We were thinking we are going to sit until we were served.”
“We simply wanted to be served. We wanted to be able to go in and have a hamburger and a Coke. We couldn’t do that.”
Shelby: Fifty-four years ago this July, Carol Parks Hahn led a group of thirty students into Dockums drug store in downtown Wichita, where they could get food to go, but not eat at the counter because they were black.
“I ordered a Coke and when she came back, she noticed others were coming in and they sat down. And she looked at me. She leaned forward and said, ‘you’re not colored, are you dear?’ And I said. ‘yes I am.”
Shelby: The students were from the local NAACP, a civil rights organization which stands for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Alongside Carol was Galyn Vesey, who was twenty-one at the time. He had no idea he was making history.
“I don’t think at the moment we had the time to capture that because looming not far away was Little Rock, the Montgomery bus boycott.”
Shelby: Two more well known African-American civil rights events that happened in the South which sparked protests there and eventually helped to change laws against racial segregation in the United States.
But in Wichita, everyday, they took shifts at the counter, two to three hours at a time. There was no violence. But the white customers took their business elsewhere. Finally after three weeks, Dockums desegregated the counters at all nine of their stores.
This was eighteen months before four students sat down at the Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina. But it is that lunch counter that is in the Smithsonian.
Today, bronze statues of the soda fountain in downtown Wichita tell the story of what happened there but also challenge the idea that racism and the civil rights movement only happened in the South.
“This is something that came out too.Some were aware of it, some were not — that Kansas was like this way.”
Shelby: Kansas — and a lot of other places — until these students came along.
Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.
- Are you surprised to find out there was a sit-in in Kansas prior to the famous one in North Carolina?
- What is a sit-in?