Food for Thought: Rock Hill Sit-ins

The fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 happens this week. Signed July 2, 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the act outlawed ingrained forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, as well as women. It also ended strict and biased voter registration requirements and public segregation in schools, at the workplace, and general public facilities like pools and libraries. This series will explore this landmark act and the events leading up to it in photographs taken throughout the South during this turbulent time.

Sit-ins at the Woolworth and McCrory’s in Rock Hill were the first of their kind in South Carolina. On February 12, 1960, more than 100 students from the Friendship Junior College led the way. For months, sit-ins and rallies were held, but to no avail. It was here Thomas Gaither, an organizer for Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), introduced the idea of “Jail, No Bail.” This led to greater media attention, less precious funds spent on bail, and more effective protests. On January 31, 1961, Rock Hill students were arrested and chose to serve their 30 days of hard labor at a prison farm. Historian Howard Zinn noted that this was “the first time anyone had served full sentences in the sit-in movement.”

The Rock Hill sit-in was one of the first in the country.
The Rock Hill sit-in was one of the first in the country.
The Friendship Nine
The Friendship Nine chose to serve 30 days in prison, rather than pay bail.
Outside protests from the people of Friendship College.
Outside protests from the people of Friendship College.