On January 31st, 1961, in Rock Hill SC, the men who would become known as the Friendship 9 walked across town and sat down at a lunch counter. They were beaten, dragged outside, threatened, and sentenced to 30 days of hard labor at the York County Prison Camp. They were allowed no defense, afforded no rights, and offered no justice. Mostly students of nearby Friendship College, they held fast to nonviolence and “Jail No Bail.” Instead of paying for freedom in fees and fines, they suffered for it. Their names are: John Gaines, Thomas Gaither, Clarence Graham, W.T. “Dub” Massey, Willie McCleod, Robert McCullough, James Wells, David Williamson Jr., and Mack Workman. Thomas Gaither, a member of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), came to Rock Hill, SC and recruited students from local universities for the planned sit-in. They trained extensively in nonviolence, and prepared for the hardship they knew they would have to endure. The Friendship 9 received incredible support from Brother David Boone, who himself endured hatred and threats despite his standing in the religious community and Caucasian race. None of these men knew the effect their isolated act would have, on the country or their own lives. The strategy of “Jail No Bail” pioneered by Thomas Gaither and piloted in Rock Hill, spread across the south and revitalized a frustrated Civil Rights Movement. Their success propelled the Freedom Rides and eventually major U.S. Civil Rights legislation. The trials didn’t end with their release from prison. The vitriol of racists and bigots always followed. That one day in January would change the direction of their whole lives. Only 54 years later, in January 2015, were their convictions stricken from the books. In a world grappling with issues of equality in all forms, the story of the Friendship 9 rings in our ears as powerfully as ever.