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Friendship Nine's 1961 Convictions Are Scrapped

'We cannot rewrite history, but we can right history'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 28, 2015 10:46 AM CST
Friendship Nine's 1961 Convictions Are Scrapped
In this file photo, people take part in a civil rights "sit-in" protest at the lunch counter in McCrory's in Rock Hill, SC.   (AP Photo/The Herald, File)

(Newser) – In what CNN calls a "poetic twist," the nephew of the judge who convicted nine South Carolina black men who took a seat at a whites-only lunch counter in 1961 today tossed those trespassing and protesting convictions. Eight of the so-called Friendship Nine appeared in court today—the ninth died in 2006, notes the AP—to get a "heartfelt" apology from a SC prosecutor, and this from Judge Mark Hayes: "We cannot rewrite history, but we can right history."

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The men refused to pay a $100 bail into the segregationist town of Rock Hill's city coffers, a move that served as a catalyst for other civil disobedience. Inspired by their courage, demonstrators across the South adopted their "jail not bail" tactic and filled jail cells. The media attention helped turn scattered protests into a nationwide movement. Their collective name was taken from Friendship Junior College, which eight of the men attended. The men's names are engraved on the stools at the counter of the restaurant on Main Street, formerly the McCrory variety store and now called the Old Town Bistro: WT "Dub" Massey, Willie McCleod, Robert McCullough, Clarence Graham, James Wells, David Williamson Jr., John Gaines, Mack Workman, and Thomas Gaither. (Read more civil rights movement stories.)

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