Created By: Wichita History Walk
Where the Ambassador Hotel now sits was the Barnes Block, a large building complex that housed many businesses, and the Dockum Drug Store on street level. The drug store was made locally famous by Wichita teens organizing for civil rights just prior to the movement’s national prominence in the 1960s. In 1958, Wichita students conducted a sit-in to protest segregation at the lunch counter. In those days, only whites were allowed to consume their food at the counter – blacks had to take their food to go and were not permitted to eat on the premises. Dockum Drug became a flash point for the community as students conducted their quiet protest for day after day from July 19 to August 11, 1958. Black teens entered the store, sat at the counter, and asked to be served a soda.
The students remained seated even after being refused service, leading other customers to avoid the store because it was too full. Eventually, the teens were served so that the counter would stop losing money from the protest. This was the beginning of desegregation in Wichita’s retail stores, and inspired subsequent student protests in Oklahoma City and Greensboro, North Carolina. Swipe to see more pictures of the building, and a picture of some of the student protestors sitting at the Dockum lunch counter. The student protest picture was published in The Enlightener, an African-American newspaper on Thursday, August 7, 1958. The Enlightener was the only local publication that covered the sit-in. Other pictures include the building as it looked, both in its early years and during the Dockum era.
Dockum Sit-In: A Legacy of Courage documentary film
Memorial Placed in Ambassador Bldg. news coverage
C-Span interview with two of the sit-in participants
This point of interest is part of the tour: Historic Downtown Wichita