Righting History: The Friendship 9



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Five decades and 5 years ago, nine African American South Carolina men were sent to prison. They nine had committed a terrible crime of trying to eat in a whites-only restaurant. Keep in mind this crime was back 1961. In the 1960’s there were these laws called Jim Crow laws in the southern states. The laws were there to oppress African Americans and keep them away from white people. Keeping the two races apart was known as segregation.

Accession No.: 07_07_000093 Call Number: no. 3...
Accession No.: 07_07_000093 Call Number: no. 35 of **M.450.172 Lithographer: Bufford, John H. Title of Lithograph: Jim Crow Jubilee Composer: Clapp, Augustus Title of Composition: History ob de World Place of Publication: Boston Publisher: Geo. P. Reed Date: 1847 BPL Department: Music Flickr data on 2011-08-05: Camera: Sinar AG Sinarback 54 FW, Sinar m Tags: Minstrelsy, dc:identifier=07_07_000093 License: CC BY 2.0 User: Boston Public Library BPL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sign on a restaurant: "We Cater to White ...
Sign on a restaurant: “We Cater to White Trade only.”, taken in Lancaster, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the Civil Rights era, African Americans and some white college students led protests against segregation and Jim Crow laws. Well the Friendship 9 entered McCrory’s in Rock Hill, South Carolina. At the time McCrory’s only served white people and African Americans were not allowed to sit at the counter nor order food. The Friendship 9 were arrested for sitting at a lunch counter. Eight of the nine were students that attended Friendship Junior College.

A book was written about the Friendship 9. The book “No Fear For Freedom: The Story of the Friendship 9.” The author of this fine book, Kim Johnson had went down to speak with Kevin Brackett, who is the chief law officer for the Rock Hill area. She wanted to try to clear the group’s records. Johnson had said that having the group’s record expunged.

Judge Mark Hayes ruled that the court in 1961 was wrong and that these men should have never gone to jail. Judge Mark Hayes also had said something that should resonate with all “We cannot rewrite history, but we can right history.” Hayes cleared the jail time from the group’s life-long records. The packed court room was jovial.

A legacy has been made, the members of the Friendship 9 names were engraved on the stools at the counter of McCrory’s. McCrory’s is now called Old Town Bistro, out side the restaurant a sign marks where the men were arrested.

I think it was good that this was expunged from their record, and that the court awarded an apology to the Friendship 9. The quote from Judge Mark Hayes really resonates with me, “We cannot rewrite history, but we can right history.” tells me that you cannot redo the past but you can right the wrongs that have happened.