The year was 1961. Rock Hill was about to be placed on the national stage for the Civil Rights Movement. For the past year, freshman at Friendship College in Rock Hill were training for a peaceful sit-in to protest segregation.
On January 31st, ten students walked nearly a mile from Friendship College to McCrory’s Five & Dime on Main Street. Passing dozens of officers, the young men were arrested two by two, after they were denied service at the lunch counter.
Nine of those 10 men declined to pay bail money, and instead being locked up for 30 days at the York County Detention Center. The purpose of staying in jail was to switch the financial burden from social justice organizations to the entity that arrested them.
*a special thanks to the Rock Hill Herald for many of the historic pictures inside the video*
“The NAACP was doling out 100 dollar bills every time someone got arrested, that was a lot of money, so with this idea it was the reverse of that,” said Mr. Willie Mcleod.
Demonstrators would flock to Rock Hill, protesting the arrests from the McCrory’s sit-in. The phrase “Jail, No Bail” began to emerge and the tactic began being used across the Southeast. The nine men who served the 30 days in jail became known as the “Friendship 9”.
A group of 7 women, who were in the same class at Friendship College, marched alongside the Friendship 9 and continued to march in protest of their arrests. They did not participate in the sit-in because of the dangers of being arrested and jailed.
The nine men returned to the lunch counter in 2011 for the 50th anniversary of the sit-in at the former space of McCrory’s Diner. Their charges were vacated in 2015.
Walk in the Footsteps of the Friendship 9 and City Girls:
While much has changed since 1961, many organizations within York County have worked to honor those that were integral in social justice work for York County. Mr. David Williamson, one of the Friendship 9, says these stops are important for any visitor, “It’s about more than us. There’s other people that made significant accomplishments along this road, black and white, it’s important that they get to see the other people and know about the history of Rock Hill.”
You can follow history’s path by visiting the following locations below:
Start at Friendship College:
While Friendship College closed it’s doors in 1981 and was later torn down, the fence and signage for the college still remains. Visiting this location gives you a sense of where these men started their walk on January 31st to get to the lunch counter. There is a memorial here honoring those men by the church as well.
Visit the Lunch Counter:
The original lunch counter and metal chairs remain in the former diner’s space. You can walk the mile from the college or drive to main street to get there. While the space is currently unoccupied, it has housed restaurants in the past that honor the counter with name plates for each of the Friendship 9. If the location remains unoccupied, you can still see the counter through the large window.
Read the Historic Marker:
A historical marker outside the diner’s space stands on Main Street for visitors to read about the sit-in and the Friendship 9’s impact on segregation and the Civil Rights Movement.
Visit Heritage Hallway:
If you walk into the doors by the historic marker, you will see the Heritage Hallway. The hallway has several wall hangings that show pictures from the sit-in, the Friendship 9, and McCrory’s Diner. These pictures also have text with them giving you the history of the event.
Walk Freedom Walkway:
Visitors can also walk down the Freedom Walkway, an alley just steps from the diner. This walkway holds a mural that honors the history of the social justice strides that have been made in the Rock Hill community. You can find the meanings of the pieces within the mural here. At the end of the alley, you’ll find descriptions about those that were an integral part in making change.
The Friendship 9:
- Robert McCullough
- John Gaines
- Thomas Gaither
- Clarence Graham
- Willie Thomas [W.T. “Dub”] Massey
- Willie McCleod
- James Wells
- David Williamson Jr.
- Mack Workman
- Phyllis Thompson Hyatt
- Peggy Archie Long
- Olivette McClurkin
- Essie Porter Ramseur
- Lucille Wallace Reese
- Patricia Hinton Sims
- Elsie White Springs
A special thanks to the Friendship 9, The City Girls, Dr. Gladys Robinson, Sonja Burris, and the Rock Hill Herald for their assistance in this project.