JULY 19, 1958

A newspaper clipping from the Aug. 7, 1958, issue of the Enlightener, a Black newspaper in Wichita shows the Dockum Drug Store lunch counter sit-in, one of the earliest in the nation.

Dockum Drug Store in downtown Wichita, Kansas, refused to serve Black patrons at its lunch counter. 

“It was degrading, dehumanizing,” recalled then-teenager Galyn Vesey. “You felt like something was wrong, but you learned to cope with it.” 

But something stirred up in him and other students, many of them belonging to the local NAACP Youth Council. They decided to organize to protest this segregationist policy. For three weeks, they took their seats at the lunch counter from opening to closing. For three weeks, they endured insults and threats of violence from white patrons. 

“We were anticipating the potential for violence and danger, but we had faith — because we felt that righteousness and justice were on our side.” 

Wichita’s nine Dockum stores belonged to the Rexall drugstore chain, which decided to end discrimination at all lunch counters nationwide because of the protest. 

A downtown monument now honors those who conducted the sit-ins. 

For Vesey, the fight continues. “We all have a stake in this, no matter how small,” he said. “We need both group participation and individuals speaking out for social justice and equality.”

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.