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In Rock Hill South Carolina 54 years after they were arrested and sentenced to hard labor for sitting at a whites-only lunch counter in South Carolina, a group of African-American student protesters known as the “Friendship Nine” had their convictions overturned yesterday.

The group gained nationwide attention because they followed an untried strategy called “Jail, No Bail”, which lessened the huge financial burden civil rights groups were facing as the sit-in movement spread across the South

All eight surviving members of the “Friendship 9” were invited to attend the morning hearing in a municipal courtroom in Rock Hill, S.C.

Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes III, who is the nephew of the judge who sentenced the “Friendship 9” to jail in 1961 presided over the session.

They were represented in the hearing by the same man who defended their case back in 1961, Ernest A. Finney, Jr. who went on to become the first black Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court since Reconstruction.

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