54 Years Later, Civil Rights Protesters Cleared of Convictions for Their Protests

(Photo: AP)

On January 31, 1954, black civil rights protesters occupied a whites-only lunch counter at a McCrory's five-and-dime store in Rock Hill, South Carolina. These men, who came to be known as the "Friendship Nine," were arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 30 days of labor on the county prison farm.

(Photo: Reuters/Jason Miczek)

James Wells, David Williamson, Willie McCleod, Willie Thomas "Dub" Massey, Clarence Graham, John Gaines, Thomas Gaither, Robert McCullough, and Mack Workman endured a terrible injustice. York County, South Carolina, the scene of this abuse, is attempting to rectify that wrong. On Wednesday, Judge John C. Hayes III, the nephew of the judge who presided over their trials, vacated their convictions. Reuters reports:

Local prosecutor Kevin Brackett, who helped initiate the motion to clear their names, apologized to the men and said they deserved to be recognized as heroes.

He noted they did not want their arrests to be erased from public documents because they felt it was important that their actions be remembered.

"There is only one reason these men were arrested ... and that is because they were black," Brackett said. "It was wrong then, it’s wrong today."

Graham, 72, said after Wednesday's hearing that the group sought no "hero worship," either in 1961 or now.

"It wasn’t for any glory," he said. "We were simply ... students who were tired of the status quo, tired of being treated as second-class citizens."

-via Nag on the Lake

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