Ablah library brings awareness to historic Wichita sit-in


Noah Merrell

Dr. Galyn Vesey presented over the Dockum Sit-in on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at the Ablah Library.

The Ablah Library hosted Galyn Vesey Wednesday to speak about his personal experiences with the Dockum Drugstore Sit-in, which occurred in Wichita on July 19, 1958. It was one of the first organized sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

University Archives Curator of Special Collections Jessica Mirasol said the sit-in is an important part of Wichita and Wichita State history, so she brought up the idea to Kathy Downes, dean of University Libraries. They decided Vesey would be just the person to speak on campus.

“We asked Vesey and he said he would absolutely love to,” Mirasol said.

Vesey, who participated in the nonviolent protest, said it’s important to keep the topic relevant for younger generations.

Sit-ins were organized by political and social activists who disagreed with racism and discriminatory business practices against African Americans. Sit-ins like the one at Dockum were a response to establishments that refused to serve African Americans. Carry-out was an option at Dockum, but African Americans were unable to sit down at the bar and eat.

“We were not served after almost 20 minutes,” Vesey said. “The server got the manager and told us they could not serve us.”

Vesey said it’s important that these moral acts of defiance are not lost to history.

“I think without a doubt, we don’t have to be proud of it. If you do not recognize how fowl it is, how do you avoid stepping in it?” Vesey said.

The Dockum Sit-In, organized by 20-year-old college student Ron Walters, was not endorsed by the NAACP at the time — although many of the people involved had connections to the organization. Vesey and his family were not affiliated with the NAACP.

“My parents were not members and had no idea where I was going every time I went to participate in the sit-ins,” Vesey said.

Along with Vesey’s speech and presentation, Storytime Village has provided a sit-in exhibit that is on display on the first floor of the library.

“It is about a struggle for justice and humanity,” Vesey said.