Dr. Reese Speaks out about the Leesburg Stockade

Published 8:44 pm Monday, August 14, 2023

Dr. Shirley Green-Reese was one of fourteen girls imprisoned at the Leesburg stockade during the civil rights protests. She gave an interview on August 14th at the Windsor. Afterwards, she visited the stockade where she was imprisoned for protesting segregation at the Martin theater in downtown Americus.
She described the difficulty of visiting the site for the first time.
“But today, it’s a joy. Because this story is out in the public now, where I want it to be. And I refuse to let these grounds to go unnoticed.”
She talked about the motivations that led her to protest that day.
“I got tired of going to the back door of the Martin theater and we wanted to go in the front door, because I wanted to be equal like everyone else. Coming up during the forties, fifties and sixties during the Jim Crow era, it was tough, but I was not going to let that control me.”
She talked briefly about the other girls who were imprisoned with her.
“Seven are dead, seven are living.” She stated that the number was sometimes mistakenly listed as fifteen.
“I cannot speak for anyone but myself today. But in connection with the other girls, when we decided to come down here awhile back, it was a joyful time for them also, to know that this story is going forth.”
“I went in there at thirteen, came out at fourteen because my birthday was August 23rd. I didn’t know it until I got out.”
She stated how her parents were unaware of her whereabouts.
“I sneaked away from home. I regretted that.”
“I put my parents through some hardship, trying to find out where I was during that time at night. I’m sorry about that. It took a toll on their lives. Because anytime you can’t find your child in two or three or four days, not knowing whether she was living or dead, that was bad.”
She was eventually released when a photographer, Danny Lyons, took pictures revealing the conditions the girls were held in.
“When I first met him, he didn’t have no idea who we were when he was taking those pictures because his life was in danger. So the picture that you have seen with me in the bars and everybody want to know why I am smiling, being in jail, it was because Danny Lyon was the first person I had seen in this place in the months that we had been here.”
She described reuniting with Mr. Lyons years later.
“I called the Justice Department at Washington D.C. doing my research and someone up there knew him.”
“Danny and I are very close. We’ve been close ever since. He gave me six thousand dollars for my Mom’s scholarship program to give away to students at Americus High.”
She described the scholarship fund she had started in her mom’s honor.
“The scholarship program started about six years ago. We’re all educated in our family, and I felt the need to give back.”
She talked about her desire to inspire others.
“I’m focusing today on the young girls, the young girls will be my project forever, to help guide them with this story because this is the beginning of my story, not the end.”