Americus Archives - StoryCorps

“I Still Wake Up Screaming”: Memories From One of the Only Known Survivors of a Lynching

The StoryCorps archive is the largest collection of human voices ever gathered, preserving United States history as told through the voices of everyday people in this country. The recordings run the gamut of human emotion, from joy to despair and everything in between.

Winfred Rembert, 73, added his rare perspective to the archive in 2017, when he sat down for a conversation with his wife, Patsy, to talk about his experience as one of the only people ever known to have survived a lynching.

When he was a teenager in the mid-1960s, Winfred participated in a Civil Rights protest in the town of Americus, Georgia. In the aftermath, he was arrested and served time in jail.

One day, after Winfred made a commotion in his cell, the deputy sheriff walked in and pulled a gun on him. Winfred then managed to take the gun away and lock the deputy sheriff in the cell before escaping.

More than five decades later, Winfred sat down for StoryCorps with his wife, Patsy, to remember what happened next.

Warning: This story includes racial slurs and a graphic description of racial violence.

Top photo: Patsy and Winfred Rembert at their StoryCorps interview in Hamden, CT in April of 2017. By Jud Esty-Kendall for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: Patsy and Winfred Rembert in April of 2017 at their StoryCorps interview in Hamden, CT. By Jacqueline Van Meter for StoryCorps.

Originally aired November 15, 2019 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The Leesburg Stockade Girls, a Forgotten Moment in Civil Rights History

In July of 1963, a group of African American protesters were arrested during a series of non-violent, anti-segregation demonstrations in Americus, Georgia. More than a dozen girls, some as young as 12, were taken to the county jail before being transferred almost 30 miles away to the Lee County Stockade — a small cement building being used as a makeshift jail.

Leesburg

And although the girls were never formally charged with a crime, they’d stay there for nearly two months without their parents’ knowledge. One guard watched over them in this run-down structure with barred windows, a broken toilet, and very little food.

The girls were released after nearly two months when Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) discovered their location and sent a photographer, who published photos of the living conditions at the stockade.

More than fifty years later, a few of the Leesburg girls, now women in their sixties, sat down for StoryCorps to shine a light on this overlooked moment in civil rights history.

Also Verna Hollis, who was pregnant while imprisoned at the stockade, sat down for StoryCorps with her now-adult son, Joseph Jones III.

Hollis

Top photo: (From left) Emmarene Kaigler-Streeter (who also recorded an interview with StoryCorps), Carol Barner-Seay, Shirley Green-Reese and Diane Bowens in 2016 outside the stockade building in Leesburg, Georgia where they were jailed as teenagers. By Alletta Cooper for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: Young women are held in the Leesburg Stockade after being arrested for demonstrating in Americus, GA. They have no beds or sanitary facilities. From left to right: Melinda Jones Williams (13), Laura Ruff Saunders (13), Mattie Crittenden Reese, Pearl Brown, Carol Barner Seay (12), Annie Ragin Laster (14), Willie Smith Davis (15), Shirley Green (age 14, later Dr. Shirley Green-Reese), and Billie Jo Thornton Allen (13). Seated: Verna Hollis (15). Photo by Danny Lyon for Magnum Photos.
Bottom photo: Joseph Jones III with his mother, Verna Hollis, in Americus, Georgia after their StoryCorps recording in 2016. Verna Hollis died the following year. By Alletta Cooper for StoryCorps.
Originally aired January 18, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.