In the years since the Friendship Nine made their lunch-counter stand, much has changed in Rock Hill.
No longer are there the alternating signs of "Whites only" and "Colored only" that Brother David Boone found when he came to The Oratory 60 years ago.
The signs - at water fountains, on bathroom doors, outside bus-stop waiting rooms and in movie theaters - were the outward vestiges of a community solidly cemented in the doctrine of separate but equal.
For some, separate in no way meant equal when it came to race.
Black-and-white photographs of the time - taken in Little Rock, Birmingham and Selma, Jackson and yes, Rock Hill - reflect that.
They are images, Winthrop University history professor Jason Silverman said, that should be replayed as a constant reminder of the hatred of the times.
"The looks in those faces should never be forgotten," he said.
Elwin Wilson, one of the nameless faces in the crowd of hate, came forward to apologize for his violence at the downtown bus station in 1961. Later, Mayor Doug Echols apologized on behalf of the city.
Melvin Poole, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, wishes more of the nameless faces would come forward a half-century later, shedding their anonymity, accepting responsibility.
Now, signs depict Rock Hill as a city with "no room for racism."
But Boone, who spent a lifetime seeking equality in Rock Hill, and other people know change is not as simple as putting up a sign.
Rock Hill is a community where the challenges are more subtle, more complicated - and they are not always colored by the color of one's skin, Boone and others said. In many cases, the result is the same as it was 50 years ago: restricting or eliminating opportunity.
There is racism by choice.
Sunday remains the most segregated day in Rock Hill and America, as whites and blacks largely worship separately.
Challenges in schools, workplaces and on the streets are great. Race, if not racism, is certainly a consideration in meeting these challenges, they said.
There are cultural obstacles, too.
A lack of role models, particularly in the black community, makes seeing opportunity difficult for children. The only successful blacks children see, said black businessman Antonio Barnes, are on television.
"They see the rappers and the football players, and that's what they want to be," Barnes said.
"Statistically, that's not going to happen."
But most of all, Boone, Barnes, Poole, Silverman and others are concerned that the current generation is too far removed from the sacrifices of the Friendship Nine and other civil rights pioneers. Too far removed, they say, to care - or to act.
As members of a "me generation," they thrive on instant gratification. They don't understand, their elders claim, the concept of standing up and stepping forward to fight the subtle challenges of today so that someone tomorrow might benefit.
'What we are still fighting for'
Almost 102 years ago, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was formed to eliminate racial prejudice and gain educational, economic, political and social opportunities for minorities.
"That's what we are still fighting for today," Poole said.
Poole recently stood before the Rock Hill school board, arguing that the board was racially insensitive to send children to school on a day set aside to honor civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. He also stood before the York County Council, arguing that the list of Pennies for Progress projects overlooks minority neighborhoods with road and stormwater needs.
"Our only option is to vote no" on the Pennies referendum in June, he said. "They will hear us."
Poole also has asked the Rock Hill Police Department for arrest information on the charges of resisting police and jaywalking. He believes police have been selectively enforcing the laws, especially against young black males.
There are too many cases in which police have stopped people because they "are black in a black community," he said.
Instead, the criminal justice system should be the "new frontier" for racial progress.
"Once you are in the system, you have a record," Poole said. "That remands you to second-class citizenship."
Rock Hill Police Chief John Gregory, who is black, said he knows of no "data, facts or assertions" to support Poole's claims. He said harassment is not tolerated in the department.
"Aggressive policing" in high-crime areas - often minority neighborhoods - increases interaction among residents and significantly reduces crime, Gregory said.
Poole and Barnes, who owns a barbershop and beauty salon on Main Street, are among those concerned about black business opportunities.
They note that Rock Hill's historic black business district was victim of urban renewal, torn down when Trade Street became Dave Lyle Boulevard in the 1970s.
Barnes has formed an "empowerment group" to encourage more local black business development. His model is the "Black Wall Street," the thriving Greenwood section of Tulsa, Okla., in the 1920s. There were hundreds of black businesses of all professions. Race riots in 1921 destroyed that community.
If a thriving minority business community could happen in the 1920s, "why can't it be done in 2011?" he asked.
Among the changes Barnes wants to see is the black community supporting its own.
"We don't support each other like we should," he said.
Access to money is also a key, something Barnes said is still difficult, despite some progress.
When you go to the bank, he said, it is as if "they throw up a red flag. You start with two strikes against you. ... It has happened to me."
Larry Stevens, who has run the Winthrop Small Business Center for six years and is black, said perception is often used as an excuse. He said loans go to people who have a solid business idea and the credentials - regardless of the color of their skin.
Stevens, too, is an advocate for opportunity. He helped formed the Young Black Professional Group. The small group - open to anyone - has focused on networking opportunities and education.
Education is the key
Buddy Motz grew up near downtown Rock Hill. Elaine Johnson Copeland grew up far away from the other side of the railroad tracks in Catawba. Both were raised in what Motz described as the "peculiar, but normal society of the South.
"We didn't understand we could have other lives," Motz said. "We didn't have the Internet, television."
"We accepted segregation, that's the way it was," Copeland said.
Motz went to the all-white Rock Hill High School. Copeland passed Rock Hill High each day to get to Emmett Scott, the city's black high school. She was serious and studious, and surprised when her fellow students voted her homecoming queen in 1960.
It wasn't until each left Rock Hill that they realized things could be different.
Motz's moment came when he went to Navy basic training in San Diego. His upper bunkmate was black. They had the same dreams, the same problems, and were bound by the same goal: surviving training.
Copeland, a high school classmate of several of the Friendship Nine, said the move to an integrated society came slowly in Rock Hill - and elsewhere.
She went to the first movie with an integrated audience at the Pix Theater, seven or eight years after the Friendship Nine protests. She and her brother were the only blacks in the audience.
Copeland remembers arriving at the Charlotte bus station shortly after the "White only" and "Colored only" signs came down. Hardly anyone was in the main, now integrated, waiting room.
An elderly black woman traveling with her wouldn't go in the room, saying, "We need to stay with our people."
But Copeland went into the integrated waiting room to enjoy the air-conditioned comfort.
It wasn't only Rock Hill where changes came slowly. Copeland went to Oregon State University in the 1970s to earn an advanced degree. She got a job as a counselor at the school. People told her it would be wonderful. She was getting away from the segregated South.
While looking for her office, she was confronted by a campus security officer, who assumed her new job was that of a cook.
"That was his perception of what African-Americans did in those days," she said.
Motz and Copeland have done more than remember those experiences.
Motz, who recently finished his term on the York County Council, fought hard for local recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The lack of a King holiday, he said, when it had been embraced elsewhere, was just another example of South Carolina "digging in its heels" when it came to making racial progress.
Copeland remembers how her teachers encouraged her in school, so she encourages students at Clinton Junior College, where she is president.
"Students now may not value education the way we did," she said. "Education is the key, especially in these economic times."
Brother David Boone also stressed education. One of the saddest days in Rock Hill was once the day after the Emmett Scott graduation, he said. He would go to the train station and watch some of Rock Hill's brightest students get on a train and leave to pursue opportunity elsewhere.
Now, Boone said, the saddest days are when he looks at school dropout rates. Children are not even getting the chance to leave.
Poole said the challenge comes even earlier. He said if children do not master essential skills, such as reading, early in elementary school, they are likely destined to drop out and, by 19 to 24, be in jail.
Motz hopes the conversations he had at boot camp are now commonplace in schools - helping people understand what unites, not divides, them.
But Silverman, who served on the Rock Hill school board, said the school district has a great focus on closing the minority achievement gap, but "bridging the gap in achievement is entirely different from having a meaningful discussion on race."
Those conversations, in school or not, are difficult, Silverman said. Many blacks or whites say they are talking about race, but instead, they get caught up in symbols such as the Confederate flag.
The flag "is a convenient escape mechanism," Silverman said. "It allows both sides to dig in their heels" and not discuss the real issues.
"This insults the memory of the Friendship Nine, the Freedom Riders," he said. "They were courageous, willing to risk their lives for the pursuit of equality."
Gregory said there must be conversation - and then action.
"It takes more than talking," he said. "It takes commitment to do something, which leads to putting stereotypes aside and looking at people as individuals."
Having lived through the major changes and having been aware of the not-so-obvious challenges, people such as Boone, Poole and Barnes remain hopeful, echoing the sentiments of previous civil rights leaders.
Poole hopes for the day when there is no discrimination, no need for the NAACP.
When Barnes was a child, his parents would remind him not to look at a white woman directly when they walked downtown.
"My heart says someday this will all be changed," he said. "Color will just be color, and we will look at the inner being."