Full of nerves and anxiety, the guys kept their heads up as they passed by cop cars lining the road to downtown Rock Hill. They were on a mission, they were going to make a statement for racial equality. Grabbing picket signs and joining the other protestors, they rallied the courage before stepping into McCrory’s Variety Store, keeping in mind the whole time that they would resist reacting with violence.
The sit-in movement started a year before in Greensboro, NC, but when African American students would get arrested for sitting at white-only counters, they would be bailed out of jail for $100 or more. Over a year’s time this became so costly that something needed to be done – both to save different Civil Rights groups money as well as make a more serious statement.
The ten students that marched to McCrory’s, now called the Friendship 9, decided to refuse to pay bail – the first students to ever do this. Sitting down at the lunch counter that wintry Tuesday, the boys knew that they would be handcuffed, hauled out of the store and taken to jail. And that is exactly what happened.
The Friendship 9 consisted of Willie Edward McCleod, James Frank Wells, Clarence Henner Graham, Thomas Walter Gaither, David “Scoop” Williamson, Robert Lewis McCullough, Mack Cartier Workman, Willie Thomas “Dub” Massey, John Alexander Gaines and Charles Edward Taylor.