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.
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.
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.