THE INTERIOR OF 135 E. MAIN ST. in Rock Hill is nearly gutted, but relics of its long history as a diner remain: A painting on the wall advertises phosphates and sloppy joes. Tucked behind the long bar is a cardboard box labeled “Historic lunch counter.” Then, underlined twice, “NOT TRASH.”
On Jan. 31, 1961, several young Black men—many of them students at Friendship Junior College—sat down at McCrory’s Lunch Counter, the counter I’m standing next to, and placed their orders. Ten were charged with trespassing and breach of peace; one opted to pay a fine. The remainder, the Friendship Nine, chose to serve 30 days at the York County Prison Farm. Their choice was part of an emerging “jail, no bail” strategy that allowed civil rights groups to invest limited resources elsewhere. For many today, a month of hard labor—plus solitary confinement and food rationing—at a South Carolina prison challenges the imagination.
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