Petition underway to recognize Leesburg Stockade Girls

Published 1:31 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2016

AMERICUS — The 15 young black girls, incarcerated in 1963, known as the Leesburg Stockade Girls, now have the opportunity to be recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
An effort is underway, in the form of a petition, to nominate the women for this distinction. Those wishing can visit the following link, type in “stockade,” and sign the petition. of freedom?recruiter=577295570&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_
Those living are Shirley Green Reese, Willie Mae Smith-Davis, Carol Barner-Seay, Melinda Jones-Williams, Verna Hollis, Billie Jo Thornton-Allen, Diane Dorsey-Bowens, Lula Westbrooks-Griffin, Emmarene Kaigler Streeter and Laura Ruff-Saunders. Those deceased are Pearl Brown, Mattie Crittenden, Sandra Russell-Mansfield, Annie Lou Ragans-Laster and Gloria Westbrooks. These girls, ages 11-15, played an instrumental role in shaping the civil rights movement in Americus, Dawson and Leesburg during the 1960s.
The survivors of this horrendous ordeal broke their silence in April 2015, when they shared the intricacies of how their illegal imprisonment and abuse impacted their lives. The group was hosted and recognized by the Americus-Sumter County Boys & Girls Club Inc.
According to published reports in 1963, the girls were standing in front of the Martin Theater in Americus when they were taken away to the Lee County Stockade where they remained for two months during the sweltering July and August. The girls’ families did not know where their daughters were. They survived on four, undrecooked hamburgers a day and had inadequate bathroom facilities and couldn’t even take a bath. They slept on the floor among roaches and debris. A rattlesnake made its way into their cell.
Finally, a photographer, Danny Lyon, managed to get inside the stockade and documented the girls and their horrendous living conditions. His shocking images would lead to the girls’ release.
The girls’ ordeal is the subject of an in-depth interview with Shirley Green Reese in the April 18, 2016, issue of Undark magazine.