Lunch counter that divided races now unites them

Rob Masone's new South Carolina restaurant is showcasing a pink formica countertop with a painful history. In 1961, nine Black protesters were denied service and jailed after they sat at the counter to eat. Mark Strassmann reports in CBS News' series Unifying America.

Video Transcript

NORAH O'DONNELL: There's a new restaurant in South Carolina in a building with a painful legacy, but instead of covering up the past, the owner hopes people will learn from it. Mark Strassmann continues our series, Unifying America.

MARK STRASSMANN: Chef Rob Masone named his new restaurant, Kounter, because this one set the stage for a moment in American history.

ROB MASONE: We've brought people to tears just by telling the story, the history of the counter. People are definitely moved by it.

MARK STRASSMANN: January 1961, Rock Hill, South Carolina. Nine Black protesters wanted to right a wrong at the old McCrory's 5 and Dine, including 18-year-old David Williamson.

DAVID WILLIAMSON: We came in and sat down at the counter to be served.

MARK STRASSMANN: Did they say something?

DAVID WILLIAMSON: We don't serve so-and-so. And before they could get it all the way out, they'll have you up and out of the seat and taking you back to arrest you.

MARK STRASSMANN: Instead of posting bail, the friendship nine sat in jail for a month. A new tactic for civil rights protesters.

DAVID WILLIAMSON: We turn it around on the state, city, and county. They had to take care of us.

MARK STRASSMANN: Masone leased this space without a plan for the counter, until he met Williamson.

ROB MASONE: He was just talking to me and rubbing his hand on the counter.

MARK STRASSMANN: Meeting him was a game changer.

ROB MASONE: Game changer. We're not covering this thing up. We're going to showcase it in it's raw form.

MARK STRASSMANN: With its original pink Formica top, stained by coffee, honored by courage. The restaurant's first customer last December, David Williamson.

DAVID WILLIAMSON: I like to sit back over there. Just sit back and just watch the people that-- you know, see them enjoy their self. And you think, wow. It really happened. This is real.

MARK STRASSMANN: So real, Rock Hill's motto today, "No room for racism". Mark Strassmann, CBS News, Rock Hill, South Carolina.

NORAH O'DONNELL: That gave me the chills. The arc of history bends towards justice.