From Our Listeners

Letters: Sit-Ins, Steve Wynn

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Scott Simon read listener e-mails. This week: A more complete take on the nascent sit-in movement and an apology for our tone in reporting on Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn's accident with a Picasso painting.


Time now for your letters. Our story last week about the 1958 Dockum Drugstore sit-ins in Wichita, Kansas prompted many letters. The story by reporter Carla Eckels suggested that the sit-ins set a precedent for more visible civil rights sit-ins in the 1960s. Many listeners wrote in to point out even earlier precedents. Sharon Wood from Omaha wrote, The most famous earlier sit-ins began in 1943, in NPR's own backyard. Led by Pauli Murray, they desegregated the Little Palace Cafeteria and Thompson's Restaurant, both near Howard University.

Gail Beal from Marshall, Texas described a 1942 sit-in in Chicago. It occurred at the Jack Spratt Coffee Shop, led by James Farmer and Jimmie Robinson, who would form the Congress of Racial Equality to continue the fight for civil rights for all Americans. The sit-ins lasted several weeks, until the owners agreed to serve all patrons. Mr. Farmer died in 1999, but Jimmie Robinson is still living in New York City.

Theresa Wilson, listening in Tucson, wrote to tell us, In July, 1948 a decade earlier, another civil rights hero in a nearby Midwestern state did the same thing. Edna Griffin went into the Katz Drugstore in downtown Des Moines, sat down at the lunch counter and ordered an ice cream soda. She was refused service because she was black. She was told that Katz's Drugstore was not equipped to serve colored people. Edna led sit-ins and picketed the drugstore along with other brave citizens of Des Moines. They went on to sue the owner of Katz Drugstore. The case was heard by the Iowa Supreme Court, who found in favor of Edna's claim. An all-white jury awarded Edna one dollar in a civil case.

Last week we reported on Las Vegas casino owner Steve Wynn's run-in with a painting. Mr. Wynn was showing guests a Picasso worth $139 million when he accidentally punched a hole in it with his elbow. We made light of the incident to Mr. Wynn's disadvantage. But Carol Maharone(ph) wrote in to say that we forgot to mention one important thing. Mr. Wynn has retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that robs a person of their peripheral vision. She goes on, I also suffer from this condition. I was very upset by the comments that he is a klutz. Sometime try closing your eyes and moving around a room without bumping into something or knocking something over while reaching for something, or tripping up a curb or step because what sight you have left doesn't include depth perception. It's hard enough coping without someone calling you a klutz. I admire Steve Wynn very much for what he has accomplished and commiserate with him over this incident.

We apologize. We welcome your letters here. Just go to our Web site and click on Contact Us. Remember to tell us where you live and how to pronounce your name.

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