Rock Hill, South Carolina (JFK+50) CNN reports that the "Friendship Nine," African-Americans who were participating in a lunch counter protest against segregation in 1961, had their criminal records erased today.
The young men, students at Friendship Junior College of Rock Hill*, S.C., were led by civil rights activist Thomas Gaither of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
Their protest, which came on January 31, 1961 almost a year after the sit-in held at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, was held at the McCrory's 5-10-25 cents Variety Store in downtown Rock Hill.
According to the Friendship Junior College website, 13 men and 5 women began the protest by marching up and down the street with signs. At 11:30 am,
after ten of the male protesters went into McCrory's and sat down at the lunch counter, they were arrested and taken to jail.
One of the ten, Charles Taylor, was tried, found guilty and sentenced. He received a $100 fine or 30 days hard labor. Because he was an athlete and feared the loss of his scholarship, Mr. Taylor paid his fine and was released.
Ernest A. Finney of Sumter, SC, the attorney representing the protesters, requested the Court allow Mr. Taylor's trial be used as a basis for the nine others. The request was granted.
The "Friendship Nine" were then tried, found guilty and given the same sentences as Charles Taylor. The difference was, however, that they refused to pay the fine and began to serve their sentences at the York County Prison Camp on February 2, 1961.
This event established a "jail no bail" policy that would be used in subsequent civil rights protests in the South.
According to CNN, the actions today took place at the Rock Hill Law Center with 7 of the 9 men present along with 83 year old Ernest A. Finney. One of the two original protesters has passed and the other had transportation problems.
CNN quotes Kevin Brackett, 16th Circuit Solicitor and the man who pushed this issue, as saying...
"We can't rewrite history, but we can write history."
*Rock Hill, SC is located 25 miles South of Charlotte, NC and 70 miles North of Columbia, SC. It was founded in 1852 and incorporated in 1892.
Downtown Rock Hill
"Judge in S.C. tosses sit-in convictions for Friendship Nine," by Devon M. Sayers and Eliott C. McLaughlin, January 28, 2015, www.cnn.com/
"Protest arrests in 1961 to be erased," by Meg Kinnard, Associated Press, Knoxville News-Sentinel, January 28, 2015.
"Rock Hill, Jail No Bail and the Friendship Nine," Friendship College, Rock Hill, South Carolina, www.friendshipcollege.org/jailnobail.html