ROCK HILL, S.C. (CN2 NEWS) – A Rock Hill man who devoted his life to uplifting fellow African Americans, a farmer who took on Rock Hill’s biggest employer to stop pollution of local waterways and a Winthrop College professor who dared stand up for civil rights protestors during the peak of the local civil rights struggle are all part of the 2023 Freedom Walkway Local Heroes class.
Each class of Local Heroes is honored with plaques erected at Freedom Walkway, which links Main Street and the East White Street Parking Lot in downtown Rock Hill. The public walkway features a mural celebrating the rights and freedom of all citizens.
The Friendship 9 serves as inspiration for the Freedom Walkway. This year’s 2023 Class is the 8th Class to be honored that brings the total number of heroes to 26, individuals or groups from ministers, teachers, journalists, soldiers, everyday citizens to doctors and more, these are people who stood for justice and equality and willing to lose it all for what they believed in.
The 2023 Freedom Walkway Local Heroes are:
- William Mason Chisolm, an educator and businessman who in the 1930s built the Durkee Institute to train young Black women as domestics. Later he purchased used buses to transport children from rural communities into Rock Hill, where they could attend school beyond seventh grade. Chisolm, a musician and poet, traveled across the U.S., raising funds for his ventures and telling White audiences about challenges faced by Black citizens in the Jim Crow South.
- Levy Deas, a farmer and mill operator, who in 1931 sued the Rock Hill Printing and Finishing Co. in an attempt to force the Bleachery to cease dumping effluent into a tributary of Fishing Creek. Although his suit was unsuccessful, it influenced the city to divert wastewater from the Fishing Creek basin. Deas faced widespread abuse for suing Rock Hill’s largest employer during the Great Depression.
- Margaret Gregg, associate professor of English at Winthrop College and a member of the Rock Hill Council on Human Relations who in February 1961 wrote a letter to The Evening Herald defending nine Friendship College students who were sentenced to 30 days in the county jail because of their protest at McCrory’s Five & Dime. Gregg risked her career for exercising her First Amendment rights in declaring treatment of the Friendship Nine violated basic principles of a democracy and of Christianity.
Each year students at the Rock Hill School District’s Applied Technology Center will produce videos on each Freedom Walkway honoree.
To learn more about Freedom Walkway, please visit www.freedomwalkway.com