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2021 Local Heroes
Each year, the City of Rock Hill honors local heroes and records their stories here. Freedom Walkway recognizes heroes of the past, present and future whose efforts helped to promote
justice and equality for all.
Honest and Fair Leader of
Peaceful School Desegregation
Foster, who later would serve 12 years as a member of the S.C. House of Representatives, was known as a firm but fair administrator, who helped lead three Rock Hill schools during the tense days of racial integration. He was principal of Emmett Scott High School during its final two years. He then shepherded an integrated junior high at Sullivan Junior/Senior High School for a year before, in 1971, becoming Northwestern High School’s first principal. Time and again Foster defused conflicts with his calm demeanor and even-handed discipline, repeatedly disregarding his own safety.
They Sat Down
to Stand Up for Justice
On Feb. 12, 1960, four Friendship College students (Abe Plummer, Martin Leroy Johnson, Arthur Hamm, Jr., and John Wesley Moore) led the first lunch counter sit-in in South Carolina. Within days of protests in Greensboro and other North Carolina cities, these four students organized a demonstration of about 150 fellow students who sat down but were refused service at four establishments on Main Street, Rock Hill’s commercial district. Despite verbal or physical abuse and even arrest, they refused to back down. Their courage and perseverance inspired similar protests at South Carolina HBCU institutions, including the better-known Friendship Nine demonstration, which occurred the following year.
Paved the Way for
Desegregation of Public Schools
In 1964 seven African American students (Kathleen Knox, Alvin Thomas Murdock, Cora Murdock, Robert Toatley Jr., Paul Watson, Vickie Young and William Young) were selected to integrate Rock Hill High School. A decade after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled racially separate schools unconstitutional, South Carolina public schools remained racially segregated. The Seven Pioneers left school friends to enroll in Rock Hill High. At best they were not welcomed by most white students or faculty; at worst, they were subjected to harassment and bullying. Often the only African American student in a classroom, they demonstrated courage and conviction. In doing so, they paved the way for future generations of students – black and white – to succeed in integrated schools.
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