Old Town Rock Hill, South Carolina
THE CITY GIRLS
Phyllis Thompson Hyatt • Peggy Archie Long • Olivette McClurkin • Essie Porter Ramseur
Lucille Wallace Reese • Patricia Hinton Sims • Elsie White Springs
1960'S COLLEGE WOMEN TOOK A
STAND FOR CIVIL RIGHTS
The role of women in the civil rights movement in Rock Hill has often been overshadowed by the dominant portrayal of men in the movement’s success. Little has been recorded about the perspective, contributions and specific actions of women during this era.
One group of African American women that made a significant contribution to Rock Hill’s civil rights movement was a group known as the “City Girls.” The City Girls, named as such because they all lived in the city, were graduates of the all-black Emmett Scott High school in Rock Hill and were freshman day students at Friendship College in the fall of 1960.
The City Girls joined forces with other civil rights protesters, including the Friendship 9, in their quest for equal justice. They attended meetings and workshops and helped prepare strategies for developing a nonviolent protest movement. For months, the City Girls joined other protesters in marches on Main Street, carrying signs and demanding equality. The City Girls took turns sitting on stools at the segregated lunch counters and suffered the same abuse and indignities as their male companions, including having eggs thrown at them and being heckled, taunted and verbally abused by the crowds.
The actions of this group of young women clearly demonstrates the significant role of women in the civil rights movement.
On January 31, 1961, the City Girls were present at the lunch counter sit-in that resulted in the arrest and incarceration of the Friendship 9. The only difference in their protest was that the women were not arrested. The county jail did not have adequate facilities for the women, and members of the Friendship 9 and protest organizers would not hear of the women going to jail even if they did have facilities. They did not want the ladies brutalized or mistreated even more than they already had been. Thus, the City Girls returned to school that day, quietly taking their place in the history of Rock Hill’s civil rights movement.
The actions of this group of young women clearly demonstrates the significant role of women in the civil rights movement. That these women were not arrested and have not been recognized highlights another historic injustice: unequal treatment of women. Through their activism and courage, the City Girls helped to overcome the barriers of racial prejudice in Rock Hill. At the same time, their actions anticipated the struggle for women’s equality that would become a major social force within another decade.