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Right to Fight for Rights?

Anna Grace Hunter

Mrs. Penegar

English I

The Friendship Nine’s “Jail, No Bail” Strategy was used for the first time during the Civil

Rights Movement on January 31st, 1961. The idea of Jail, No Bail is when someone chooses to

go to jail or prison for so many days instead of paying bail when the person commits a crime, but

they believe that the idea is right when the law says that the idea is wrong. The Friendship Nine

used this method in their famous sit-in in Rock Hill, SC and because of this served 30 days of

hard labor in jail. This tactic has been used in multiple protests across the nation, starting in the

small town of Rock Hill, South Carolina, and is what got the movement moving again. The arrest

for the sit-in was later removed in court as an apology to the nine men. The tragedy of the

Friendship Nine’s arrest and the triumph of the jail, no bail method inspired many more

non-violent protests, came with multiple risks, and played a role in the civil rights movement.

On January 31st, 1961, a group of nine black male college students and one black male,

who was good friends with the nine students, went to the Five and Dime restaurant in Rock Hill,

South Carolina in order to conduct a non-violent sit-in protest. The nine men were arrested and

were sentenced to either 30 days of hard labor in jail or pay a 100 dollar fine. According to The

Washington Post, ”​The “Friendship Nine” became the first Civil Rights protesters to refuse to

pay bail and serve out their jail sentences.​” This choice marked the beginning of Jail, No Bail

and means that the idea of Jail, No Bail had officially created and conducted. The nine men who
are known as the Friendship Nine are John Alexander Gains, Thomas Walter Gaither, Clarence

H. Graham, Willie Thomas Massey, Willie Edward Mcleod, Robert L. McCullough, James

Frank Wells, David Williamson Jr, and Mack C. Workman. This protest was performed in order

to challenge lunch counter segregation and to show that white people and black people are equal.

The Friendship Nine’s Jail, No Bail strategy went on to inspire other non-violent protests

including The Albany Movement, a mass protest in Rock Hill, and a group of four volunteers

who protested in Rock Hill, South Carolina that followed the arrest of the Friendship Nine.

Unlike the northern states, during this time most of the public places in the south were

segregated. These places ranged from lunch counters, buses, schools, restrooms, movie theaters,

and water fountains. Because of this, there were many movements that were going on nationally

that influenced the Rock Hill Nine. These include but are not limited to, Martin Luther King Jr.’s

speeches, The Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Brown vs. Board of Education. There were also

protests that happened in the previous years that were lead by people at Friendship Junior

College. One of the largest protest leading to the Friendship Nine sit-in contained about 100

people. One of the members of the Friendship Nine, Thomas Gaither, had previously been

involved in a group called the Congress of Racial Equality, better known as CORE (Lare, 351).

This group was a group of primary people who were affected by segregation, with some people

who were not affected, that would go around and conduct other non-violent protests. This group

had taught people how to handle themselves during these protests, even when people try to

become physical. Willie T. Dub Massey was in a group of people before the Friendship Nine

conducted their sit-in, who were doing different types of protests, such as sit-ins and marches.

Before the Friendship Nine Sit-in, Massey had already protested at 6 different counters and
stores, including McCrory’s Five and Dime Restaurant. Including the Friendship Nine sit-in. He

had gotten into protesting when one of his classmates had asked him to join one that was

religious. Massey was raised in a church environment, so that protest had gained Massey’s

interest. With the arrest for the Friendship Nine sit-in, Massey would have been arrested 3 times

for protests.

The students created the idea of Jail, No Bail when they realized that there were people

who were performing protests, but bailing out of jail. Which did not do anything in gaining the

rights of the people in the south. So, the group came up with the conclusion that they would go to

jail instead of paying the fine. Gaither believed that ​“it was time to raise the level of commitment

to show how serious we were about trying to transform our society into a more just society” (The

Washington Post).​ They decided this because when people paid the fine, it was costing people

money, so they were gonna go to jail and have the government pay for their needs. Thomas

Gaither told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that ​“It didn’t make sense to violate the law and then put

money right back into the system” (Fessenden). ​When the people started going to jail instead of

paying bail, not only were they making the government pay for housing, food, clothing, etc., they

were causing the jails to become overcrowded. Before the nine men had sat at the lunch counter

and requested service, the nine members of the Friendship Nine were already catching people’s

eye and were thought to be suspicious because of the fact that they decided to go a little early

and hang around the area and look through the store that was a part of the Five and Dime

Restaurant. The group did not stop at the one protest in the restaurant, however, the group

continued to have small protests in the jail. These would range from singing, fasting in solitary

confinement, and not doing as much work as they were required to. According to Global
Nonviolent Action Database, “​ A week later a march was held in solidarity with the Friendship 9,

who had been placed in solitary confinement for singing. The condemning song as reported by

the Baltimore Afro-American was ‘Before I’d be a slave, I’d be dead and in my grave.’” ​Through

their time in jail, the group did have some people who supported them come in and visit them for


The members of the Friendship Nine did not execute the sit in order to get them the

attention that they got for it from people of the same race and from other people who protested in

the area. Massey did not tell his children about the arrest. This is because Massey believes that if

you do an action and then brag about it, you only proceeded in doing that action for the attention

and not out of the goodness from your heart. ​“Everything we did was not for us…if we

benefited, fine, but if we didn’t, we wanted the next generation to” (David Williamson Jr.). ​They

conducted the sit-in in order to try and create a better life for their families and, at the time,

future children (Massey). When they did follow through with the protest, however, they were

risking their jobs, education, reputation, and possibly their lives. The idea created from this

movement, Jail, No Bail, went on to be used in many movements including sit-ins, kneel-ins,

marches, etc. On February 6th, 1961, about a week after the Friendship Nine’s sit-in, a group of

four volunteers went to perform a sit-in in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Following the Friendship

Nine, this group had used the Jail, No Bail technique and also served time in jail (Zinn Education

Project). The conviction was overturned 54 years later in 2015. The court said that they cannot

take back what the time that the Friendship Nine members had to face in jail, but that they can

clear their record of it as a form of apology (Phillip). Some of the members did not want the time

they spent in jail to be erased off of their record. Mcleod, for instance, told Rock Hill Herald that
“My record for fighting segregation was always something I was proud of” (Phillip). He also

wanted people to remember what the group had done and to know the reason behind going

through with the sit-in (Phillip).

. In conclusion, the Friendship Nine sit-in of 1961 played a role in the civil rights

movement, inspired other non-violent protests, and came with many risks. Although the sit-in did

not have an immediate effect on the civil rights movement in the southern states, the jail, no bail

movement did impact the states that were affected by segregation. The idea of Jail, No Bail was

used very shortly again in Rock Hill, South Carolina by four people after the Friendship Nine

was arrested. The Friendship Nine jail, no bail inspired many non-violent protests, including the

Albany Movement. The Friendship Nine had also risked their lives to make the lives of their

family, future children, and friends better and more equal. The sit-in had many impacts on people

far and close to Rock Hill, South Carolina in the Civil Rights Movement with their creation of

the idea of Jail, No Bail.