Original Dockum sit-in participants honored

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

Joan Smith Williams among other brave Wichita teens in the late 1950s dared to break the mold.

At a time when African Americans weren't allowed to sit at lunch counters that only served white people, she did.

She said, “there was a time when you got a little bit of a nervous fear, not knowing what could happen. Who could actually punch you in the back or spit on you.”

Dr. Galyn A. Vesey did too. He said, “there was tension and couldn't help it.”

They were a part of the Dockum sit -ins, a movement to desegregate establishments in Wichita.

Peggy Hatcher Wesley, who was 15-years-old at the time, was the youngest participant. She says they had practiced and practiced how to react if counter protestors attacked them. She said, “we knew we were just to sit there and we are just so blessed that nothing terrible happened.”

The peaceful demonstrations lasted for 3 weeks, when the drug store finally agreed to serve black patrons. Little did they know their movement would inspire others like it across the country.

Wesley said, “I think about it with my kids and grandkids can't even imagine not being able to go to a restaurant and eat whatever they want to eat.

Fast forward to today, a much more unified Wichita. Thanks to these brave men and women who city leaders honored Saturday afternoon. Today marks the 60th anniversary of those sit-ins.

Lavonta Williams said, “for them we owe a huge amount of gratitude. Because of them we can sit at a counter along with our counterparts and have a hamburger and coke.

These Wichitans proud to have played an important role in the civil rights movements here.

Vesey said, “I feel, obviously, an element of pride. I'm 81 now. I was 18 then. I’d rather be known for this then some ugliness.”

Wesley said, “I’m just really proud that we did what we did to make it possible for the younger generation.”

Check out these photos from across KAKEland snapped by our viewers, staff and local officials. Do you have pictures to share with us? Email them to news@kake.com.

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