Note: This story was first published in April, 2008
For about 50 years, likely the longest continually operating black-owned restaurant in Rock Hill, the Minute Grill has fed the hungry and slaked the thirst of the dry.
It was first on Black Street on the black business block of the city -- a block set apart by segregation. The Minute catered to blacks because blacks were denied fried bologna sandwiches at white restaurants.
The past few decades, the Minute Grill has been on South Wilson Street at the downtown-side apex of the Sunset Park neighborhood. The customers are almost all black. All were black Tuesday. But there was not a thing in the restaurant owned by George Thompson for all those years until his death, or now as it's owned by his daughter Margaret Joan Roseborough, to show, or say, that anybody who isn't black isn't welcome.
Never miss a local story.
So when Roseborough found out Tuesday that Columbia-based Maurice's barbecue was coming to her city, she said, "I'm a Christian. I'd rather know who they are, where they are, so I can stay away from it."
Maurice's is a place known for flying the Confederate flag atop its headquarters after that same flag that hurts so many blacks was removed from atop the Statehouse years ago. Wal-Mart and other retailers refused to sell its products. And now the restaurant is coming to Rock Hill where Margaret Joan Roseborough has fought what that flag represents all her life.
"That flag is hatred," she said. "There is no other way to describe it."
The Rev. W.T. "Dub" Massey was one of nine Rock Hill men to spend 30 days in jail for the crime of being hungry and black 47 years ago. It was not illegal for McCrory's not to serve him and others. Immoral, yes, but not illegal. It was illegal for him to be black at the white restaurant, though. Trespassing. Guilty. Chain gang. Next case!
Massey said Tuesday, "That flag hurt me then, hurts me still. I remember those who hated us who waved those flags around. It still fosters hate."
Massey's response to Maurice's barbecue coming to his city: "You have got to be kidding."
The sign is already up.
Minnie Taylor, another black restaurant owner, found out about Maurice's, too. Taylor owns Redbones at the intersection of Main Street and Anderson Road. Of 11 people eating lunch Tuesday, 10 were white.
"Oh, no!" was her reaction.
Taylor said people have told her not to eat at Maurice's because of that flag, the views on race. Her race. So she didn't eat there, and won't.
"I don't care who I hire, and I don't care who I feed," Taylor said.
Kimberly Mahoney owns and runs All-Stars on Saluda Street. This black businessowner's reaction to Maurice's: "I want business from anyone," Mahoney said. "I encourage it."
Almost all of Mahoney's customers are black. But not all.
"If someone came in here and said anything we had in here was offensive, I would take it down," Mahoney said. "We treat everybody the same."
Alvin Murdock, pastor at Christ Deliverance Church, heard, too. His late grandfather was the president of the Rock Hill NAACP. His late father was a member of the Black Panther party, then became a preacher. Murdock said Maurice Bessinger has his right to his views on the Confederate flag.
"America has freedom of speech," Murdock said.
Yet, Murdock said the Confederate flag is "unpatriotic."
Maurice's has the right to open a business in Rock Hill, Murdock said. "But I probably won't be one of his patrons," he said.
Restaurant owners Taylor, Mahoney and Roseborough all said Maurice's BBQ has the right to open its doors. Roseborough from the Minute Grill on South Wilson Street even said, "Even if it was across the street, right over there, I would say, 'OK.'"
But, Roseborough said, "That doesn't mean we have to go there."
Massey, that icon of the "Friendship Nine" who went to jail and now have a marker on Main Street to document their struggle, said he hopes that no Confederate flag comes to the restaurant.
"I would think people would not patronize Maurice should he decide to bring his decorations," Massey said. "I hope the only thing he hangs up is curtains."
Massey said he hopes he doesn't have to put back on his "marching shoes." He said, "We have come so far from those days," and "we have gone through too much division."
I asked Massey if "we" meant blacks. He said "we" meant black and white.
"All of us," he said.
Well, apparently, almost all of us.