NAACP LEADERS MARK SIT-IN AND RACE RIOT ANNIVERSARIES

NAACP officials from across the nation will converge on the Midwest in the coming week to mark a series of historic events that are often overlooked in the story of America’s civil rights successes.   

Tomorrow the NAACP and others will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Dockum Sit-In (in Wichita, Kansas) which led to the first successful student-led sit-in of the Civil Rights Movement. The day-long event, which includes a march, reunion and a city-wide gospel concert, will pay honor and tribute to the members of the local NAACP Youth Council and its former President Dr. Ron Walters.

“In the summer of 1958, two dozen young people from Wichita stood up by sitting down, and changed our nation,” said NAACP Interim President & CEO Dennis Courtland Hayes. “We must never forget these heroes of the struggle who laid a solid foundation in the fight for justice, equality and progress we enjoy today.”    

By Aug. 11, 1958, the students had desegregated the Dockum drug store lunch counter and all Rexall Drug Stores throughout Kansas, and the movement gained a powerful new weapon in the fight for equal accommodations.

Original members of the 1958 Youth Council have reunited for the event. The morning march will begin at the site of the original Dockum Drug Store and continue to the newly renamed Chester I. Lewis Reflection Park, named in honor of former Wichita NAACP Branch President Emeritus Chester 'Chet' Lewis who authorized the Dockum Sit-in.

On Aug. 16, the NAACP will host activities marking the 100th anniversary of the Springfield race riot in Illinois. A program will be held at the old state Capitol Building, there will be tours of the riot route and a town hall meeting titled, “Racial Justice—100 Years Later” will take place at the Abraham Lincoln Library. Along with the horrific practice of lynching, the Springfield riot is considered one of the pivotal events in American history that led to the formation of the NAACP.

Days later, on Aug. 18 and 19, the NAACP will mark the 50th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Sit-Ins. A legal forum honoring that sit-ins’ attorneys, John Green and others, will be held at Langston University’s Oklahoma City campus. A reception at the Oklahoma City Historical Society and a community mass meeting at Fifth Street Baptist Church are among other celebratory plans.

On August 19, 1958 in Oklahoma City a nationally recognized sit-in at the Katz Drug Store lunch counter occurred. It was led by NAACP youth leader Clara Luper, a local high school teacher, and local students. It took years but she and her students integrated Oklahoma City eating establishments.

The Dockum and Oklahoma City sit-ins are often overshadowed by the later sit-ins in Greensboro, N.C. and other places throughout the South but were just as groundbreaking.

“The NAACP encourages all to join in correcting the history books and offering appreciation to truly
deserving civil rights pioneers and their nearly forgotten acts of service,” said NAACP Field
Operations Chief Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, III.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

Media Contact: Richard J. McIntire (410) 580-5787

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