In 1961 the Friendship 9, a group of young African-American men, sat at the counter of McCrory’s Five and Dime in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The counter was whites only and the group was quickly arrested. But instead of paying their $100 fine, they served 30 days in jail. They weren’t the first to peacefully protest and sit in a white only section, but they were credited with the creation of the “jail, not bail” strategy.
Friday night, remaining members of the Friendship 9 will speak at Emmett Scott Center, sharing their memories and their thoughts on civil rights today.
David Williamson Jr. will tell you what it’s like to be known as one of the Friendship 9—but you’ll have to ask.
He says his own daughter didn’t realize his place in civil rights history until she was in college and came across a newspaper article.
Williamson, along with other remaining members of the Friendship 9 will share memories and reflections on their arrests 55 years ago.
The group spent the night in jail and their hearing was the next day. The judge found them guilty and instead of paying their bail, they chose to spend 30 days doing hard labor and adjusting to life behind bars.
Williamson is in his 70s and admits his memory isn’t what it used to be. But he has vivid memories from that time.
He recalls a guard slipping them a Baby Ruth chocolate bar (they were bigger back then he says) and they cut it into nine small pieces.
These personal, anecdotal stories on what life was like will be part of tonight’s conversation, along with thoughts on current civil rights efforts. It’s been a little over a year since their convictions were overturned.
The event starts at 6:00 p.m. at Emmett Scott Center and will be moderated by Winthrop Political Science Professor Adolphus Belk Jr.