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Rock Hill & Charlotte Sit-ins
By J. Charles Jones

(See also Timeline & History: Charlotte-Rock Hill Sit-Ins)

Before the sit-in movement

May 17, 1954 Brown v Board of Education. Supreme Court rules that "separate but equal" is "inherently unequal" and unconstitutional. Initially applied only to schools, this declaration emboldens Civil Rights advocates to act to end discrimination of all kinds.

(The first of the cases that led to this decision had been filed in Clarendon County, SC, under the leadership of local minister Rev. Joseph De Lame, whose son B.B. DeLaine will help organize Charlotte's 1960 sit-ins.)

Summer 1954 Charlotte airport sit-in. Reginald Hawkins and others in Charlotte sit down at new airport restaurant. They use denial of service to launch a letter-writing campaign with federal aviation agencies and other governmental bodies that results in desegregation of the airport restaurant 2 years later.

1955 - 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott launched by Rosa Parks in Alabama. Coordinated by Rev. Martin Luther King, the year-long effort ends segregation on city buses. The much-publicized effort shows the power of non-violent direct action, and becomes perhaps the most important single inspiration for a wave of Civil Rights protests that will continue across the United States into the 1970s.

1955 Rock's Hill's St. Anne School desegregates. "Catholic school in Rock Hill only school in SC that is integrated," headlines the black Pittsburgh Courier, July 2, 1955.

June 23, 1957 Sit-in at lunch counter in Durham. NC. One of several scattered incidents during the 1940s -1950s, including at a library in Alexandria VA, at Peoples Drug Stores in DC, at a lunch counter in Wichita, Kansas. None spark widespread action.

July-August 1957 Rock Hill Bus Boycott. Black maid Addelene Austin gets off a bus rather than give up her seat next to a white woman. Rock Hill black citizens launch a boycott coordinated by local NAACP leader and Presbyterian minister Rev. Cecil Ivory that puts the bus company out of business. Covered nationally in Jet Magazine, Baltimore Afro-American, New York Amsterdam News. (Ivory is a graduate of Charlotte's Johnson C. Smith University)

September 1957 School desegregation in Charlotte starts with 4 black students. Photo of Dorothy Counts being jeered makes national news. But her treatment is much more gentle than at Little Rock, Arkansas, which desegregates at bayonet-point the same week.

1958 Berea College trains student leaders. J. Charles Jones and Edith Strickland from Johnson C. Smith University join other black and white student leaders at Berea College in Kentucky, where Quakers have organized a training course on the principles of non- violent social change. Teachers from India introduce ideas of Ghandi, and also instruct the students how to protect selves in the event of beatings

The sit-in movement begins

February 1, 1960 Greensboro sit-ins Launched by four freshman at NC A&T University: Franklin McCain, David Richmond, EzeIl Blair, Jr., and Joseph MacNeil. Students sit at whites- only lunch counter at downtown Woolworth variety store, politely seek service. Protestors from A&T, black women's school Bennett College and other schools continue the protests for 6 long months.

February 8, 1960 Sit-ins begin in Durham and Winston. NC.

February 9, 1960 Charlotte sit-ins begin. Spokesperson J. Charles Jones along with fellow organizers Heyward Davenport and B.B. De Lame (son of the man who sparked the landmark 1954 Brown decision) lead some 200 students from Johnson C. Smith University to downtown Charlotte where they sit-in at all lunch counters.

Feb. 9 - 11 Sit-ins begin in Favetteville and Raleigh. NC. Sit-ins at Hampton, VA and Nashville, TN, begin February 10 or 11.

Feb. 12, 1960 Rock Hill sit-ins begin, the first in SC. About 100 black youths, most from Friendship Junior College, sit down at Woolworth's and McCrory's. Counters closed until February 23M; students then sit-in again. Leroy Johnson, a Friendship student, is spokesperson, and organizers include Abe Plummer and Arthur Hamm, who have received training from CORE's James T. McCain. Other leaders include Martin L. Johnson and John Moore. Mass meeting in late February called by Rev. Cecil Ivory. More sit-ins March 15, including at bus stations, result in 70 arrests for which NAACP posts bail. Sit-ins will continue through year.

Rock Hill Citizens Council organized by whites February 15, with 350 members. Gov. Ernest F. Hollings says sit-ins "are purely to create violence and not to promote anyone's rights," reports the Rock Hill Evening Herald.

Late Feb-March Sit-ins spread throughout SC to Manning, Denmark, Orangeburg, then Columbia and Greenville, then Sumter and Charleston. The Orangeburg action draws 400 participants on its first day, 1000 on the second, according to the Baltimore Afro-American.

Late Feb - March Sit-ins spread throughout South, including Florida, Alabama, Georgia. April 15-17, 1960 Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). College youth from across the US meet at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC, under leadership of former NAACP organizer Ella Baker, create SNCC to spread and coordinate sit-ins. It will become a key force in the Civil Rights Movement.

One faction in SNCC argues that protestors need to serve jail time, not just get out on bail and pay whatever fine the judge sets. This will show the movement's sincerely and win fresh media attention.

Mid June, 1960 Rock Hill wheelchair sit-in. NACCP's Rev. Cecil Ivory, long confined to a wheelchair, rolls up to McCrory lunch counter and asks for service. He says he is violating no custom, since he is not sitting in a lunch counter seat. He is denied. Accompanied by Arthur Hamm, student leader at Friendship. Covered nationally in the black press, including Pittsburgh Courier, June 18, 1960.

June, 1960 Greensboro sit-ins partially succeed, lunch counters now open to black customers. Three more years of protest will be required before all restaurants, movie theaters and other public places open their doors.

July, 1960 Charlotte sit-ins partially succeed, lunch counters now open to black customers. Upscale "white table-cloth" restaurants will not desegregate until 13, when Mayor Stanford Brookshire arranges for pairs of black and white business leaders to eat at each establishment. Charlotte's Sit-Ins

Feb. 9, 1960 Charlotte sit-ins start. Front page story in Charlotte Observer: "An estimated 200 students from Johnson C. Smith University participated in orderly protests against what they feel are discriminatory practices at S.H. Kress Co., W.T. Grant Co., F.W. Woolworth, McLellan's, Liggetts Drug, Belk's, Ivey's and Sears, Roebuck." J. Charles Jones is spokesperson. Older black leader Dr. Nathaniel Tross calls sit-ins "ill-advised."

Feb. 12, 1960 Students explain aims. JCSU students J. Charles Jones, Clyde Williams, Jr. (of Brooklyn, NY), Harold Washington (of NYC) and Hayward Davenport (yearbook editor, of Charlotte) explain that the Charlotte sit-ins have no links to outside organizations. "We're not seeking intermarriage. We don't feel that sitting next to a white person will help us digest our food any better. We just want to be able to sit down and have a cup of coffee like other customers," says Williams to the Charlotte Observer. [Story notes that students have hung Nathaniel Tross in effigy].

Feb. 13, 1960 United Presbyterian Church USA endorses sit-ins in letter to J. Charles Jones. Counters are closed at McLellan's, Woolworth's, Grant's and Kress, but protests continue at Liggett and Belk.

Feb. 20, 1960 Front-page coverage. Baltimore Afro-American. J. Charles Jones and other Charlotte protestors are featured in large photos at the top of the front page, under the banner headline "Moral, Human Right." Story mentions that Charlotte's NAACP chief Kelly Alexander endorsed the sit-ins. The Afro- American's circulation covered the eastern US, an equivalent among black Americans to today's USA Today. [The same photo ran in the Charlotte Observer, credited to Observer photog Jim Dumbell - distributed via API.

March 14, 1960 Thurgood Marshall visits to give speech at NAACP convention on behalf of students. Earlier there had been a Freedom Rally at Gethsemane AME Zion Church with student leaders J. Charles Jones, Hayward Davenport and Clyde L. Carter.

April 1, 1960 Friendly Relations Committee appointed by Mayor to talk with students (still exists today as Community Relations Committee).

June 23, 1960 Sit-Ins resume after 2-month lull. Students joined by 25 ministers from Catawba Synod of Presbyterian Church USA.

July, 1960 Charlotte sit-ins partially succeed, lunch counters now open to black customers. Upscale "white table-cloth" restaurants will not desegregate until 1%3, when Mayor Stanford Brookshire arranges for pairs of black and white business leaders to eat at each establishment.

August 15, 1962 20 protestors arrested seeking to desegregate Howard Johnson's restaurants in Charlotte. Led by Reginald Hawkins. Arrested include 3 teens, one of whom is Cecil A. Ivory, Hawkins nephew.

1963 Mayor Stanford Brookshire desegregates Charlotte's white-tablecloth restaurants. Moses Belton from JCSU assists.

"Jail, No Bail" in Rock Hill. FaIl 1960 CORE organizer Thomas Gaither, whose father and mother had attended Friendship College, arrives in Rock Hill. As a student at nearby Clafin College he had helped organize Orangeburg SC's huge protests the previous spring. He and SCLC organizers train students in sit-in techniques during a weekend workshop at Clafin College in Orangeburg, December 9-11, 1960.

January 31, 1961 Rock Hill students arrested. Organized by CORE's South Carolina field secretary Thomas Gaither, students from Friendship Junior College, a 2-year Baptist school, make a pact to sit-in and do hard jail time. Sit-ins have been going on in Rock Hill with no effect for a year, $17,000 in bail money has been spent, and media no longer pays attention.

Members include Rock Hill area natives W. Thomas "Dub" Massey, Willie Edward McCleod, James Frank Wells, Clarence Henner Graham, David Williamson, Robert Lewis McCullough, Mack Cartier Workman, John Alexander Gaines, New Jersey native Charles Edward Taylor, as well as Thomas Gaither - 10 in all.

February 1, 1961 Rock Hill students found guilty of trespass, sentenced to 30 days hard labor or $100 fine each. Choose jail. Student's attorney is Ernest A. Finney. City's attorney is C.W.F. Spencer. Police chief is W.S. Rhodes, captain is John M. Hunsucker and arresting officer was Lt. W.D. Thomas. Judge is Billy D. Hayes.

February 2, 1961 Students begin sentence. York County Prison Farm. This was "the first time anyone had served full sentences in the sit-in movement," writes historian Howard Zinn. At McCrory's there are signs "lunch counter closed" and "employees laid boards across the seats and covered them with wrapping paper," according to the Rock Hill Evening Herald.

February 3, 1961. One student released. Charles Taylor, far from his New Jersey family, chooses to pay the fine and be released. Remaining students (including Gaither) will henceforth be known as the Friendship 9. A "Human Rights Committee" meets at Mt. Olivet AME Zion to discuss the events.

February 6, 1961 SNCC sends 4 students to Rock Hill, who sit-in and are sentenced to 30 days: Charles Sherrod, J. Charles Jones, Diane Nash, Ruby Doris Smith. The two women go to the York County Jail, while the two men join the 9 previous detainees at the Prison Farm.

February 7, 1961 Mass meeting, Rock Hill. 300 African Americans crowd a meeting of the Committee for the Promotion of Human Rights led by local NAACP president Rev. Cecil Ivory. Guest speakers include SNCC founder Ella Baker, CORE field secretary James T. McCain, and white activist Connie Curry of the US National Student Association (Atlanta). Meeting votes to again visit Prison Farm on Sunday.

February 8, 1961 White protestor Edward Haan, formerly of Vanderbilt University, joins the picket line in front of McCrory's. "It marked the first time a white person had participated in the demonstrations in Rock Hill since they began over a year ago," according to the Rock Hill Evening Herald. There are "well over 100 pickets" in two long lines marching "up and down the sidewalk between Elk Aye, and Hampton St. on Main St. The picketing began about 11:50 am and ended at 12:25pm."

February 10-11 Support for students. Margaret H. Gregg (white?) supports the protests in a letter to the editor published in the Rock Hill Evening Herald, calling segregation "a violation of a cardinal principle of Christianity - equality before God." Dean Raymond H. Jackson at Friendship College says there are no plans to penalize students for cutting class. Most protests have occurred during natural break in classes 11:30am -1:30pm. In a letter to the editor, Rev. Ivory says that neither he nor the NAACP had "the distinguished honor" of planning the students' jailing; they did it themselves.

In contrast is a February 20 letter by David L. Ayers in the Rock Hill Herald opposing the students.

Also on February 11, the Baltimore Afro-American carries its first report of Rock Hill events - on the front page. Story includes "Dear Mom and Dad" letter by protestor Clarence Graham written the night before the arrests.

February 12 SNCC leads mass protests in Rock Hill. Busload of some 40 black students from Nashville's A& I College, organized by SNCC and led by students Joseph Winston and Leo Lillard with Rev. John Copeland, carry out a "full weekend of demonstrations in Rock Hill," according to Rock Hill Herald. There is a Sunday morning "kneel-in" during which students are admitted to 3 Rock Hill churches (1'~ Presbyterian, Oakland Av Presbyterian, Grace Lutheran) and turned away from 2 (White Street Baptist, West Main Nazarene), filmed by Charlotte television crews. Sunday afternoon motorcade of 600 people to York County Prison Farm, where Rock Hill's white Catholic pastor Rev. Henry Tevlin leads parents group in for visit. 2 1/2 hour rally at Mt. Olivet AME Zion Church. (On their way back to Nashville, the students stage a protest at the bus depot in Asheville).

February 17 Black women picket Winthrop College. 19 women from Friendship College picket Winthrop, the state of South Carolina's college for white women, which is located in Rock Hill. They protest the fact that they were denied admission applications.

February 18 "Jail Yes, Bail No" front page. Photo of jailed Rock Hill students on Baltimore Afro-American front page, plus photo of 2 men in striped "convict" outfits marching in sympathy in DC. Article on Nashville students who visited Rock Hill. Article on white protestor Ed Hahn. Photos from Rock Hill. Article on Rev. King and 100 SNCC students in Atlanta led by Lonnie King and Hershelle Sullivan who have gone to jail; an Atlanta student motorcade had driven to Rock Hill the previous weekend.

February 25 Big feature in Baltimore Afro-American. Full-page photo spread by staffer Sam Hoskins includes Nash, Sherrod, Jones, Smith, lawyer Finney, Ed Hahn, plus Friendship student Margaret Lewis. Interview with women prisoners Nash and Smith with quotes, also food they are served. The editorial cartoon is a man in striped convict uniform, with sign "I'm serving time in the crusade for human dignity."

February 20 Incident with white protestors. Two whites from Washington DC, Joan Trumpower [Trumpauer] and Paul David Dietrich, plus black Washingtonian Franklyn S. Hunt (a reporter for the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper), join the picket line. "A boisterous crowd of some 300 persons" threatens to get out of control. One white Rock Hillian is arrested - George L. Morgan - along with the three out-of-towners. Charges are later dismissed.

February 18 - 20 Solitary confinement. Eight at Prison Farm placed in solitary confinement and go on three-day fast in protest. CORE national director James Farmer sends a telegram to US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, says the solitary confinement was for "refusing to stop singing hymns during their morning devotion." Prison Camp superintendent Charles C. Maloney says that this confinement is "because they sat down and refused to work" but acknowledges that there was a half-day of solitary "early last week because they refused a guard's order to stop singing," reports the Rock Hill Herald.

Prisoners are disgruntled at workload, including loading 36 truckloads of dirt in one day, more than the 27 truckloads completed by regular prisoners.

Those in solitary are listed as McCleod, Wells, Graham, Gaither, Williamson, McCullough, Workman, Massey.

Baltimore Afro-American reports the song that precipitated the solitary confinement was "Before I'd be a slave, I'd be dead and in my grave."

[There seem to have been at least two episodes of solitary confinement.]

February 21 Rock Hill Herald editorial critical of the students opens with a wry joke about Rock Hill being "the only town east of the Mississippi that pulls in customers from as far away as Washington and Chicago to eat a ham sandwich at a five and ten cent store."

Mayor John A. Hardin is getting about 9 letters a day, mostly from out- of-town clergy, supporting the sit-ins, according to the Herald, Feb. 24.

February 23 Rev. Ivory and 2 others arrested. Rev. Ivory, black ally George A. Hackley of Maryland and white ally Paul David Deitrich of DC are arrested for "breach of peace" in downtown protests. They are represented by "Matthew Perry, Spartanburg Negro attorney, and Donald J. Sampson, Greenville Negro attorney," notes the Herald. Deitrich swears out arrest warrant for a white who had struck him: Clement King.

February 28 Friendship President supports students. In a letter to the editor published in the Rock Hill Herald, Friendship College president James H. Goudlock criticizes a new city policy which allows police to break up any public gathering. The city must recognize that Rock Hill has a real social problem, writes Goudlock: "This problem takes root in the Negroes' insatiable hunger and thirst for first-class citizenship, a chance to live and grow as free human beings."

Subsequent letter from John M. Schofield of Rock Hill criticizes Goudlock, says he disrupts natural process - "During the past 20 years there has been a dying out of prejudice."

March 2 Students end sentences The nine original student protestors leave York County Prison Farm.

March 7 Mass meeting honors students. Rev. Ivory plans event Friday at which James Farmer of CORE will speak, to be held in Emmet Scott School. The last four students will be released tomorrow (March 8): "Diane Judith Nash, 22, a student at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. and a native of Chicago, Ill; Ruby Doris Smith, 18, a student at Spellman College in Atlanta, Ga.; Charles Melvin Sherrod, 24, from Surrey County, Va., a student at Virginia Union University in Richmond; and Joseph Charles Jones, 23, of Charlotte."

Jones is threatened with military draft - he has been out of school during his jail time and has thus may have lost his deferment.

March 8 Diane Nash's letter from the York County Jail published as letter-to-the-editor in Rock Hill Herald. "We are trying to help focus attention on a moral question.... The principle of racial inferiority has been challenged.... Let us truly love one another and, under God, move toward a 'redeemed community."'

March Picketing continues in Rock Hill throughout the month, including arrest of Massey.

"Well it's now ten minutes until seven in the morning and we have been up since five this morning. We had flour gravy and very 'watery grits and after careful inspection I ident~fied bacon for breakfast, plus coffee without cream or very much coffee." -- Tom Gaither, letter from York County Prison, February 7, 1961

"What you and others have done has turned the spotlight of publicity once again upon the evils of segregation. All Americans, some day, will be grateful." -- CORE director James Farmer to Charles Sherrod, February 28, 1961

"This story of the Rock Hill jail-in will bother you. For days I couldn't shake it off ... It is ,comething that should not have happened in our country and yet it did happen." -- noted novelist Lillian Smith, preface to jgjk4Jn 1961.

February 28 Friendship President supports students. In a letter to the editor published in the Rock Hill Herald, Friendship College president James H. Goudlock criticizes a new city policy which allows police to break up any public gathering. The city must recognize that Rock Hill has a real social problem, writes Goudlock: "This problem takes root in the Negroes' insatiable hunger and thirst for first-class citizenship, a chance to live and grow as free human beings."

Subsequent letter from John M. Schofield of Rock Hill criticizes Goudlock, says he disrupts natural process - "During the past 20 years there has been a dying out of prejudice."

March 2 Students end sentences The nine original student protestors leave York County Prison Farm.

March 7 Mass meeting honors students. Rev. Ivory plans event Friday at which James Farmer of CORE will speak, to be held in Emmet Scott School. The last four students will be released tomorrow (March 8): "Diane Judith Nash, 22, a student at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. and a native of Chicago, Ill; Ruby Doris Smith, 18, a student at Spellman College in Atlanta, Ga.; Charles Melvin Sherrod, 24, from Surrey County, Va., a student at Virginia Union University in Richmond; and Joseph Charles Jones, 23, of Charlotte."

Jones is threatened with military draft - he has been out of school during his jail time and has thus may have lost his deferment.

March 8 Diane Nash's letter from the York County Jail published as letter-to-the-editor in Rock Hill Herald. "We are trying to help focus attention on a moral question.... The principle of racial inferiority has been challenged.... Let us truly love one another and, under God, move toward a 'redeemed community."'

March Picketing continues in Rock Hill throughout the month, including arrest of Massey.

"Well it's now ten minutes until seven in the morning and we have been up since five this morning. We had flour gravy and very owatery grits and after careful inspection I identified bacon for breakfast, plus coffee without cream or very much coffee." -- Tom Gaither, letter from York County Prison, February 7, 1961

"What you and others have done has turned the spotlight of publicity once again upon the evils of segregation. All Americans, some day, will be grateful." -- CORE director James Farmer to Charles Sherrod, February 28, 1961

"This story of the Rock Hill jail-in will bother you. For days I couldn't shake it off ... It is something that should not have happened in our country and yet it did happen." -- noted novelist Lillian Smith, 1961. After Rock Hill's "Jail, No Bail" Protests

Early 1961 Tom Gaither proposes Freedom Ride. According to historian Howard Zinn, the idea for the Freedom Ride came from Rock Hill's CORE leader Tom Gaither. A group of activists, black and white, would ride on Greyhound and Trailways buses thru the South and attempt to integrate seating and stations - dramatizing the fact that real desegregation had not yet caught up with Court rulings.

Writes Zinn: Tom Gaither "early" in 1961 "spoke to Gordon Carey, also of CORE, about a 'Freedom Ride,' after which a national council meeting of CORE agreed to undertake it, and CORE's new national director, James Farmer, issued a call on March 13." One of the first volunteers was James Peck, who had participated in an earlier CORE Freedom Ride in 1947 that ended in Chapel Hill, NC.

"CORE field secretary Tom Gaither has already arranged meetings in Greensboro, Charlotte, Rock Hill and Sumter as well. He is completing arrangements now for the balance of the trip." CORE memo April 24, 1961: "Freedom Ride Itinerary."

May 9, 1961 Freedom Riders beaten in Rock Hill. John Lewis of SNCC and Albert Bigelow are beaten at the Rock Hill bus station, the first violence encountered as protestors begin their famed ride through the South seeking to expose the persistence of segregated facilities in the face of Court rulings.

Mid May, 1961 Diane Nash takes charge of Freedom Ride. The Riders meet horrific violence in Alabama; a mob burns the bus and beats occupants. CORE tries to stop the Ride, but Diane Nash of SNCC steps in as organizer and keeps it going.

At the end of the Ride, SNCC's Ruby Doris Smith (veteran of the Rock Hill jail) and Joan Trumpauer (veteran of Rock Hill street protests) are jailed at Mississippi's Parchman Farm). Charles Jones also participates in the Freedom Rides.

Fall 1961-Spring 1962 The Albany Movement. Led by Charles Sherrod with help from other SNCC activists including J. Charles Jones, young people in Albany, Georgia, take on a staunchly segregationist city government using a tactic of filling the jails. Hundreds go to jail and stay there, winning international attention. The Albany effort gives birth to the Freedom Singers, led by Bernice Johnson Reagon (later a renowned Smithsonian curator and founder of the singing group Sweet Honey in the Rock).

1964 Cynthia Roddey enters Winthrop, first African American student.

Mid 1960s Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson becomes the leader of SNCC. She is profiled in Ebony, August 1966. Her work is cut short by cancer, and she dies in 1967 at age 25.

1982 Friendship College closes its doors.

Written & © by J. Charles Jones.


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