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Friendship 9 students who protested against racial discrimination and were put in prison, Rock Hill, South Carolina, February 1961

'Our ultimate choice is desegregation or disintegration' - recovering the lost words of a jailed civil rights strategist

April 14, 2021, Bobby J. Donaldson and Christopher Frear

In 1961, a group that would come to be known as the “Friendship Nine” hoped to reinvigorate the sit-in movement with a “Jail, No Bail” strategy to push the costs of enforcing segregation onto the city, rather than onto civil rights supporters, who paid substantial bail fees every time students were arrested. Bobby Donaldson, history professor and director of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research, writes about the strategy and a 60-year-old letter by activist Thomas Gaither – arrested with the Friendship Nine during a sit-in in Rock Hill, South Carolina – deep in a records box in the South Caroliniana Library.