Joy King

(Rock Hill, S.C.) –- The historic Five & Dine restaurant located on Main Street in Rock Hill, which was the site of an important moment during the civil rights movement, closed its doors at the end of December.

The restaurant, formerly known as McCrory’s Five & Dime, was the site of the “Friendship Nine” protest in 1961.

At the time, blacks were permitted to shop in the store, but they weren’t allowed to sit at, or even order food from, the all-white lunch counter.

On Jan. 31, 1961, 10 African-American students who attended Friendship College made history by staging a sit-in at the counter.

They were arrested and nine of the students refused to post bail and the group gained national attention as the “Friendship Nine.”

The group served 30 days, working hard labor at the York County prison farm, to protest segregation.

They weren’t the first group to protest at a segregated lunch counter, but their refusal to accept bail gave birth to the “jail, no bail” strategy.

“I’ve lived in Rock Hill all my life, except graduate school, so I’m a native,” said Dr. Eddie Lee, professor of history at Winthrop University.

“I remember going in there as a child and sitting at the lunch counter,” Lee said. “I think the store will have another life. I’m sorry that the Five & Dine is closed. I don’t think it will be the end.”

On Jan. 31, 1961, a group of African-American students, who became known as the “Friendship Nine,” made history by staging a sit-in at a “whites-only” lunch counter in Rock Hill (photo: Joy King).

Dr. Nathaniel Frederick, associate professor of mass communication and director of African-American studies at Winthrop, said he hopes that the next owner acknowledges the significance of the site.

“I would hope that it would be preserved — whoever becomes the proprietor,” said Frederick.

“I would try to make a point to eat there. To kind of sit back where those folks were sitting because I know what it took for people to do that,” he said.

“Rock Hill has done a great job confronting their racial history and using it as a teaching tool. I really hope whoever the next owner is, makes it stay true to the legacy to the city.”

The lunch counter and stools can’t be removed without permission from the city, according to Stephen Turner, director of Rock Hill’s office of Economic and Urban Development.