2015 New Media Film Festival Documentary Review: “Counter Histories – Rock Hill”

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By:  Ellexia Nguyen

Counter Histories: Rock Hill, is a moving documentary that combines re-enactments and candid interviews to tell the story of nine African-American men, known as the Friendship 9, who sat at McCrory’s lunch counter and were mistreated because of their race. They asked for a cup of coffee and were denied service. The incident unfolded in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on January 31st, 1961. In effort to stand up for their rights, these men staged a sit-in at the lunch counter to peacefully protest against segregation in their community. The Friendship 9, college students at the time, were arrested, beaten, hauled to jail and forced to undergo hard labor for 30 days. They were the first U.S. civil rights protestors who chose to do time in prison rather than post bail. During that period, their “jail, no bail” strategy inspired and influenced others across the South to implement the same tactic of taking a stand to racial injustice. Counter Histories: Rock Hill was executive produced by Ellen Barnard and directed by Frederick Taylor, a Chicago native who credited his grandmother as his source of inspiration for making the documentary. If you like watching historical documentaries that are thought-provoking, take some time out to see Frederick Taylor’s Counter Histories: Rock Hill.

The surviving members of the Friendship 9 finally had their convictions overturned after over 50 years earlier this year.  PBS stations will be showing the documentary “Counter Histories: Rock Hill “throughout 2015 in recognition of the 50 year anniversary of voting rights.

Counter Histories: Rock Hill from Southern Foodways on Vimeo.