Rock Hill civil rights leaders were at Confederate Park on Monday morning to greet children marching in an event honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and to recount some of their own local history to youngsters.
In 1961, a group of Friendship College students staged a sit-in at the segregated McCrory’s lunch counter in downtown Rock Hill, setting off a protest that resulted in arrests and a 30-day jail sentence. The students would come to be remembered as the Friendship Nine.
Ten were arrested, nine of them being students who attended the former Friendship College in Rock Hill.
The Friendship Nine is celebrating a forthcoming children’s book written by Kimberly Johnson and featuring illustrations by Vanessa Thompson. The book will be available in early February, weeks after the 53rd anniversary of the Jan. 31, 1961 sit-in.
“The old folk don’t want to remember,” said Clarence Graham, 71, one of the Friendship Nine protesters. “It’s important kids know.”
Graham said the group is continuing to tour schools throughout the state to pass on a piece of local history.
Fellow Friendship Nine member W.T. “Dub” Massey, 71, called the event one of the most important feats of his life.
“We’re very proud of what happened,” Massey said. “This is all about Rock Hill history.”
Massey, now a substitute teacher in the Rock Hill school district, said the group members have yet to be “exonerated” and still have criminal histories stemming from the protest.
He called the group “living examples” of what it means to stand against injustice.