CHARLOTTE — Rock Hill's importance to the civil rights movement held the spotlight for a moment at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte Thursday.
In his convention speech before a packed Time Warner Cable Arena audience, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., recounted his experience riding through the Deep South in 1961 with the Freedom Riders to protest Jim Crow segregation.
When the riders stopped in Rock Hill, Lewis and another civil rights activists tried to enter the whites-only waiting room at the bus station.
“We were met by an angry mob that beat us and left us lying in a pool of blood,” Lewis said.
When police asked whether the activists wanted to press charges, they said no.
“We come in peace, love and nonviolence,” they told the police.
Lewis said “a man from Rock Hill” inspired by Obama's election came to Washington, D.C., to apologize to him and ask for forgiveness.
Lewis was talking about Rock Hill’s Elwin Wilson, who made his first public apology to Lewis in The Herald.
When Wilson went to see him, Lewis said he forgave Wilson and they embraced and cried.
“This man and I don't want to go back. We don't want to go back,” Lewis said to the crowd.
Lewis went on to decry attempts to create new restrictions on voters, such as South Carolina's voter ID law.
Last year, 50 years later, Lewis said Wilson was the only person who beat the freedom riders to apologize.
Jamie Self 803-329-4062