Enquirer Herald

Events planned to commemorate 50th Anniversary of Friendship 9 protests

Several events are planned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Jan. 31, 1961 Rock Hill sit-ins over segregation that started the "Jail, No Bail" protests across the country.

The black protesters, who later came to be called "The Friendship Nine" because all but one were students at Friendship Junior College in Rock Hill, will be honored with a walk down Main Street and re-enactment of the events of that day.

On Jan. 30 at 3 p.m., the event, "Footsteps from the Past: A March to Freedom," will start at the intersection of Main Street and Dave Lyle Boulevard. A short march on Main street with end at the site of the 1961 protests. There will be speakers after the walk.

The sit-in was outside the McCrory's department store on Main Street, now the location of the Old Town Bistro restaurant. The Bistro displays the counter and original stools in honor of the protestors who were arrested inside the restaurant.

Those who stayed in jail for 30 days rather than post bail after they were convicted of trespassing were Friendship students David Williamson Jr., Willie McLeod, John Gaines, Thomas Gaither, Clarence Graham, W.T. "Dub" Massey, James Wells, Mack Workman and the late Robert McCullough. An organizer for the Congress on Racial Equality, Thomas Gaither, also was arrested and served 30 days.

"There is only one 50th anniversary, so the plan is to make this special so that people of a new generation know what happened," said Bennish Brown, executive director of the Rock Hill-York County visitors bureau who has chaired the committee coordinating the events.

The protests brought national attention to Rock Hill.

The South Carolina ETV produced documentary, "Jail, No Bail," will be shown Feb. 1 at Winthrop University and Feb. 2 at the McCelvey Center in York, then nationally on public television in February. A trailer for the documentary can be viewed here.

All events are free and open to the public.

At a glance

Sunday, Jan. 30, 3 p.m.: – “Footsteps from the Past: A March to Freedom” commemorative walk and re-enactment. From the site of former Friendship College to former McCrory’s (Old Town Bistro)

Monday, Jan. 31, 6:30 p.m.: VIP “Invitation Only” ETV Documentary Screening at Old Town Bistro

Tuesday, Feb. 1, 6:30 p.m.: Public ETV documentary screening at DiGiorgio Student Center, Winthrop University

Wednesday, Feb. 2, 6:30 p.m., Public ETV documentary screening at McCelvey Center, York

Thursday, Feb. 3, 8 p.m.: Television premiere of "Jail, No Bail" on ETV Network

Sunday, Feb. 6, 3 p.m.: Public ETV documentary screening at Levine Museum of the South, Charlotte

Want to know more?

For information on events, or to become a sponsor, contact Bennish Brown at 803-329-5200; bbrown@visityorkcounty.com; or write to the Rock Hill-York County Convention and Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 11377, Rock Hill, S.C. 29731.

Information on the Friendship Nine is at the website friendshipcollege.org.