9 Black Men Convicted in SC of Trespassing at a Whites-Only Lunch Counter Will Have Their Records Wiped Clean

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele
National Guardsmen with bared bayonets hold back a group of demonstrators protesting segregation in Cambridge, Md., May 14, 1964.
AFP/Getty Images

Nine African-American men—one posthumously—are expected to have their criminal records wiped clean of a trespassing conviction they got in 1961 when they staged a sit-in at a whites-only lunch counter in South Carolina, the Associated Press reports.

On Wednesday a South Carolina prosecutor will ask a judge “to vacate the arrests and convictions” of the group known as the Friendship Nine. They were referred to as such because all but one attended Friendship Junior College at the time of the sit-in, which was staged at a variety store in Rock Hill, S.C. According to AP, a judge “is expected” to vacate the convictions.


Although desegregation sit-ins were an integral part of the civil rights movement, being convicted trespassers didn’t bode well for African-American men. According to AP, the men say they will be relieved when they’re free of that mark on their record.

When convicted in 1961, all nine men—Thomas Gaither, Willie McCleod, Robert McCullough, W.T. “Dub” Massey, Clarence Graham, James Wells, David Williamson Jr., John Gaines and Mack Workman—chose to do a month of hard labor in a chain gang rather than have civil rights groups post bail, which would have financially benefited the segregationists. All of the men are still alive except for McCullough, who died in 2006.

“It’s been a long wait,” Graham said during a phone interview with AP. "We are sure now that we made the right decision for the right reason. Being nonviolent was the best thing that we could have done.”

Read more at the Associated Press.

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