The plan on the morning of Jan. 31, 1961, was set.
Protest, sit down, get arrested - but don't post bond afterward.
The Friendship Nine - Friendship Junior College students David Williamson Jr., Robert McCullough, Willie McCleod, W.T. "Dub" Massey, Mack Workman, John Gaines, Clarence Graham and James Wells, along with Congress of Racial Equality organizer Thomas Gaither - met in the student common room at school around 9:30 on Tuesday morning, Jan. 31, 1961.
A few of the women from the school who had protested through previous months were there, too.
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On the way to the meeting, McCullough ran into a scholarship basketball player from New Jersey named Charles Taylor.
Taylor, at 22, was older than most students. He had arrived at Friendship in the fall of 1960 after working at General Motors. A dentist in New Jersey told him of a black school in the South where Taylor could get a scholarship because he was both a top student and basketball player.
Quickly, Taylor's sharp wit and worldly experience brought his election as president of the Friendship freshman class. Rock Hill was not Taylor's first brush with racism, but it was his first experience with segregation.
He was, plainly, appalled.
"Never had I seen a place where the whites told the blacks where they could go, what they could do," Taylor said. "Where the law was separate for us."
Three other students from New Jersey who had come south with Taylor left school rather than face the humiliation of how blacks were treated in Rock Hill.
Taylor, that morning of Jan. 31, 1961, came face-to-face with McCullough, leader of the local student protesters who had been active for months.
"McCullough told me I was the class president, and what these guys were going to do that day, that I needed to go with them," Taylor recalled. "He was right. I had to go."
Police flood downtown
The group, without fanfare or notice to the school's faculty or student body, walked east the quarter-mile to downtown from the Allen Street campus just south of Black Street.
They were almost to downtown on Main Street when the men noticed that a half-dozen State Law Enforcement Division agents were on the street. The SLED chief at the time, J.P. Strom, approached Gaither and told him he recognized him from protests in Orangeburg.
"We were trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, hadn't told anyone," Gaither said, "and here is the SLED chief lecturing me, urging me not to be a part of anything."
The young men later figured that Gaither's phone call to CORE offices the night before, to alert that the protest would be held, had been bugged.
The march downtown continued. The men made it to the McCrory's store, called in those days a "five-and-dime." It included sections that sold cheap goods and a lunch counter that, among other downtown counters, had been the site of many earlier protests.
For 11:30 on a sleepy Tuesday morning, downtown Rock Hill was covered with several police officers as well as the SLED agents.
All white, all grim.
"I never saw so many police in all the times we had protested before," Williamson recalled.
These were the same officers who had broken up previous demonstrations and arrested previous protesters.
Plus, most earlier demonstrations attracted hundreds of curious whites.
The police officers, many times before this protest, had worked to keep small but unruly mobs of enraged whites - who baited the protesters with racial epithets and threats - from beating them up.
"The police, you could tell from their expressions, their faces, that they were as anxious as we were," Gaither said. "All signs pointed to a day different from any other day."
But the group was undaunted.
"The fact was, they didn't think black people had the nerve to do what we were getting ready to do," McCleod remembered. "But there was no stopping us that day."
Not a word was spoken.
'We can't serve you'
The 10 men - along with three of the women known as the "City Girls" at Friendship because they were also local Emmett Scott High School alums - briefly marched outside the store.
Then, the men went inside. Taylor and Williamson, the tallest of the group, led the way inside and sat down first. The others came, silently in pairs, and sat down.
The workers were white at the counter, black in the back, cooking and washing dishes. The high-ceilinged room - normally abuzz with conversation and rattling dishes - echoed from the sound of footsteps.
All the men asked for a hamburger and a soda or coffee.
"I remember it like it was yesterday," Massey said. "I said, 'May I have a Coca-Cola and a hamburger?' The counterman said, 'You know we can't serve you.'"
A manager was fetched, and he told the men to leave. They refused.
"We sat there, looking straight ahead," said Workman. "Not another word was said - by any of us."
McCrory's workers didn't have to look far for the police. A group of officers was already in the front of the store. Taylor and Williamson were grabbed first.
"I was snatched up and pulled to the back door and banged off the door jamb," Williamson said.
All of the protesters recalled that the action by the police was swift - and rough.
"Dragged out," said Gaither.
"Hauled out by the seat of my pants and collar," said McCleod.
"Fast, they took me out like I was weightless," Taylor remembered. "All I did was ask for a hamburger."
"I don't remember my feet ever touching the floor," said Workman.
"I'm a little guy, they had me up in the air," said Massey.
Normally, students who had sat down in protest had left when asked. This was different.
"Snatched me up, my feet never hit the floor," Gaines said of the police grabbing him.
Wells remembered the brief protest outside had been answered with a few of the usual racial epithets and taunts and spitting at the black men. That just furthered their resolve that what they were about to do was noble - and necessary.
"The police dragged me out and that was the end of trying to eat," Wells said.
'We had no rights'
In 1961, the Rock Hill Police Department was housed in a White Street building in what is now the back parking lot behind several Main Street businesses.
The men were taken to the booking counter, fingerprinted, read their rights and charged with trespassing.
"I do remember thinking the words 'my rights,' said Gaines. "We had no rights. We were black, Negro. We were fighting for rights."
The city jail had three small holding cells in a line, with iron bars and swinging iron barred doors and an old-fashioned iron lock built into the door. The men, after processing, were ushered inside the cells.
A heavy key on a circle-iron ring was inserted into each lock.
"The sound of that cell door closing, those big heavy keys locking the door, it was a 'clang!'" Graham said. "It echoed. It was loud. I heard that in my head for years. I still hear it.
"I couldn't go into that parking lot for years. I would hear the jail cell closing in my mind."
All the men recall that instant - the sound of the iron door closing, the keys locking the cell.
That sound barged through their brains that day - and it haunts them still.
"That sound was it," Workman said. "I worked with prisoners for years afterward, and every time I would go in to visit, and the doors sounded behind me, I would gulp. I would close my eyes.
"I was right there in that Rock Hill jail, when they locked me up - for being black."
Williamson shudders when he thinks of the sound. Massey, too. Gaines and Wells, McCleod and Gaither - they remember the metallic sound of jail.
"It sounded like I didn't know if I was ever going to get out," Massey said.
"It sounded like jail, because it was jail."
Lonely night in jail
Because no one else at Friendship or with the NAACP had any clue as to what the plan was - to stay in jail - the men had no visitors that day. They talked to each other through the bars and stayed strong.
"What little we did say, was to remind each other that we had strength in numbers," said Williamson, "that we were together."
Gaither called it the "camaraderie of common purpose."
All expected that their trial the next day would go badly. All resolved to stick with the plan, if found guilty, to refuse to pay the fine, the bail, for the misdemeanor charge.
The men sang songs, including "We Shall Overcome." The guards told them to pipe down.
The afternoon wore on, they were fed a jail meal of little more than scraps. Darkness fell outside, and the men lay down in their street clothes on iron bunks without mattresses. All tried to sleep - and failed.
"If I slept, it was maybe a moment or two," Gaines said.
The courage they had to that point ebbed and flowed, replaced by emotions that were real and hit right under the breastbone, like a heart attack.
"The police all talked to me, said I was a Yankee, an agitator," said Taylor. "They knew who all of us were."
All of the men described that night with words such as "anxious" and "afraid" - because they were not criminals. They were top students who played in the band and studied French and mathematics and physics.
They did not know jail - but they did know what happened to black prisoners, black people, who bucked the system.
"You never knew in those days how many people who were protesting went into a jail and never came out again," Massey said.
"This was the real world for blacks and the real world - when you got caught for something meant that you might get killed."
'Make an example'
The next morning - Wednesday, Feb. 1 - a young lawyer from Sumter named Ernest Finney met with the men.
Finney, described in the news those days as a "Sumter Negro" - a man who, almost three decades later, would be elected the first black chief justice of the state Supreme Court - had been alerted by the CORE offices of the arrests.
The men were brought into the city courtroom next to the jail, in the same building. City Judge Billy Hayes presided. There was no jury. This would be a bench trial, decided only by a judge who was white.
Taylor's case was called first.
"The guards told me that morning they were going to make an example out of me," Taylor recalled. "Those guards, I remember them saying, 'You Yankees, trying to come down here and change the South. Well, we goin' show you who is in charge down here. It ain't you.'"
Finney stipulated for the court that because the facts of the case were the same for all, that Taylor's case would be used as trial for all the men.
A police officer named Thomas testified, as did John Hunsucker, the police captain in those days who often arrested protesters.
Hunsucker was given direct orders in those times by the politicians and police chief to be the main arresting officer, because the arrests were often public, and Hunsucker was a calm man.
Politicians could and did hide from their support of segregation.
Police - even if they did not agree with segregation and were forced to uphold laws even if those laws seemed wrong - could not hide.
Yet Rock Hill's politicians knew that blacks who were beaten or hosed with water cannons or bitten by police dogs in public, as had happened in other Southern cities, became martyrs seen on television news by the whole country.
The city's leaders wanted these black protesters to do what protesters had usually done - go away.
"The police testified that it was illegal for blacks to sit there," Gaither recalled. "They tried to say that we were boisterous, but we were not.
"Everybody in that room knew we only asked for something to eat and refused to leave when told they would not serve us because we were Negro."
Robert McCullough, the "Little Professor," was the sole protester to testify.
He told the court that all the men did was what any other person did - they asked for lunch. He said they were sitting down for a meal as all people were allowed to do as human beings, regardless of race.
"Rob McCullough was so smart; he talked so well," Gaines said. "He was so passionate, that I remember thinking, 'Man, we might beat this thing.'
"For just a minute, I thought that this might be the case where a judge sees that segregation is wrong and we were right."
Finney argued that these men had the same constitutional right to enter McCrory's and sit at the lunch counter.
But South Carolina custom and law was different.
South Carolina had rules. Rock Hill had rules.
Blacks could not sit down at a whites-only counter, Judge Hayes ruled. They had been asked to leave and didn't.
Choosing hard labor
"The word 'Guilty!' rang out," Gaines recalled. "The air left the room."
The whole trial had lasted less than an hour.
The judge then explained to the men that the fine for a guilty verdict was $100 each. Dozens of protesters over the past year had appeared before Hayes, and all of those found guilty had paid fines after these brief trials.
Those fines - thousands of dollars that depleted NAACP coffers and enriched the oppressive city that maintained segregation - were one reason the decision had been made to do something different that day.
The other option, explained Hayes, was 30 days at hard labor at the York County Prison Farm. Until that point, nobody in a year's worth of protests and arrests in Rock Hill had accepted the punishment of imprisonment rather than pay the fine.
The men told the court that each would pay no fine.
"The whole room was stunned," Gaither recalled. "We shocked them. They didn't know what to do."
The men all recalled the lumps in their throats as the white judge and prosecutor and police all looked at each other and tried to figure out what came next for these blacks.
Finally, Hayes gulped and said fine, 30 days it is.
Then, these 10 men were taken back to the holding cells for a few minutes.
An old station wagon - a hearse most likely, that had outlived carrying the dead - that served as jail transport pulled up the door. Two white prisoners also sentenced to the prison farm in York about 15 miles away were put in the front seat.
These 10 black men were thrust into the back of the hearse, piled on top of each other, and taken away to the place in York where the county's killers and violent criminals spent years.
The men all had to remind each other privately that what they were doing was for all blacks. That whatever happened, injury or death, was, in Graham's words, "worth my blood for others."
All this bravery, all this resolve from men who were barely out of high school.
"I looked out the back of that station wagon and I didn't know if I would ever see my family again," recalled Workman. "None of us knew what was going to happen after that.
"But we knew it was prison - and it was going to hurt."