In 1961, civil rights spurred sit-ins all over the south. The first recorded sit-in in the nation was February 7th, 1960, and Rock Hill observed its first two weeks later. Friendship College African Americans had sit-ins and picketing demonstrations daily. The routine was for participants to sit down at a segregated establishment, get arrested and post bail. In Rock Hill, bail money was reaching a low and it became clear that the participants were merely funding the institution they were protesting against. On January 31, 1961, eight Friendship College students and the secretary for the Congress for Racial Equality sat down at the lunch counter of the McCrory’s dime store on Main Street and were asked to leave or be removed. The students and secretary stayed. They were asked to leave again, and again refused. The Friendship Nine were taken to jail and were fined for breach of peace and trespassing by a judge, and sentences to 30 days in jail or a bail of $100. They refused to pay and became the first civil rights protesters to go to jail in the nation. The National Civil Rights movement adopted a “jail-no bail” philosophy after this event and was a great step toward civil rights in southern towns.
On February 3, 2007, Old Town Bistro opened for business serving breakfast lunch and dunner in the old McCrory’s dime store. The original bar and bar seats the Friendship 9 sat in are still in place. A South Carolina Historical marker stands outside the Bistro.
On July 20, 1964, 24-year-old Cynthia Place Roddey registered and was approved to enroll at Winthrop College. Police and security guards patrolled the campus and surrounding streets. For her protection, neighbors were ready to protect her home on West Main Street. No student at Winthrop College threatened or demoralized her. She graduated in July of 1967 and took a job in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2008, The Herald printed the following article:
Honoring an icon Return
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By Kimberly Dick - The Heraldd
Published online at www.heraldonline.com 01/21/08 - 12:00 AM
Nearly 40 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated fighting against racism -- a revolution fought hard by some in Rock Hill then and now.
Today, as York County formally celebrates the holiday in his honor for the fifth time, something the nation's done since 1986, The Herald details some the history of the civil rights movement in the area.
The Friendship Nine
Little civil rights change came to Rock Hill until Friendship Junior College students reignited sit-in protests on Jan. 31, 1961, when they refused to leave a whites-only downtown Rock Hill lunch counter that denied serving them because of their race.
Nine men, dubbed the Friendship Nine, were jailed for 30 days instead of paying a $100 fine for disturbing the peace and trespassing. They were the first to successfully use the "jail, no bail" protest.
The Old Town Bistro now shares the downtown storefront that was once McCrory's department store and highlights the incident with markers at its counter.
The Freedom Riders
U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia was a 21-year-old seminary student and activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee when he first visited Rock Hill with a group of Freedom Riders. He's back in Rock Hill today to speak at the MLK Interfaith Prayer Breakfast.
The Freedom Riders traveled to Southern states in the 1960s to test whether the region's transportation agencies were following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that banned segregation at lunch counters, bathrooms and other facilities.
Their journey started in Washington, D.C., and was supposed to end in New Orleans. But they faced opposition in Rock Hill on May 9, 1961, when they were attacked at a Greyhound bus station. It was the first act of violence they encountered.
Lewis was beaten when he and a white Freedom Rider tried to enter the "white" restroom.
Locals made a difference
• Brother David Boone
That's not just the name etched on two area buildings, Carolina Community Action and Redeeming Life Ministries teen center, but the name of a local civil rights activist.
Brother David Boone spoke up for equal rights for blacks at a time when many white men kept quiet. Boone, who came to Rock Hill from Kentucky in 1951, marched, took part in 1960s sit-ins and boycotted in the name of civil rights. He registered black voters and coached a black softball team.
He's been honored for his work with the NAACP, Rock Hill's The Oratory and St. Mary's Catholic Church.
• The Rev. Cecil Ivory
The Hermon Presbyterian Church pastor wanted to integrate the McCrory's lunch counter and preached furthering the civil rights movement. Ivory led college students during sit-ins in downtown Rock Hill.
As head of the local NAACP chapter during the time of the bus boycotts in the late 1950s, Ivory was quoted as wanting "justice and the elimination of discrimination. We'd rather walk than be insulted."
• The Rev. Robert Toatley
The Rev. Robert Toatley marched in Washington in 1963 to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak, and brought the message back to Rock Hill. He worked to end segregated buses in the city and to help the Friendship Nine.
In attempts to end segregation in schools, Toatley sent his son a school where he was one of a handful of black children and ran for Rock Hill City Council when no black person before him ever tried.
No Room for Racism
Rock Hill's informal slogan is also an initiative started more than a decade ago by a city-appointed committee to create a mindset where people of difference cultures come together to eliminate racism.
The program was awarded the National League of Cities' National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials top honor in 1998. The committee now works with the MLK Task Force, formed in 2003, for awareness and understanding diversity.
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