In the Summer of 1963, 15 young girls, between the ages 12 and 15 were part of a group peacefully protesting segregation when they were hauled off to jail in Dawson, Georgia.
The following day they were shuttled to an abandoned, one-room stockade in Leesburg, all without their parents’ knowledge. They were held there for two months without bedding, fresh clothes, sanitary products, adequate food or working plumbing.
“A white cinderblock building, paint peeling,” says Dr. Carol Barner Seay.
The small structure sits off Leslie Highway, just outside of downtown Leesburg. At first sight, the unremarkable structure appears to hold little significance, but behind this modest looking facade lies a hidden history from the scorching summer of 1963. A history both these women lived.
“The stockade in Leesburg, Georgia,” says Dr. Shirley Green-Reese.
Both ladies who were involved in separate peaceful civil rights protests found themselves imprisoned.
“And it had no windows, barred windows and broken glass. It was an empty building with old blankets, green blankets, dirty blankets, with glass with blood stains,” says Dr. Shirley Green-Reese.
“There was a commode. Didn’t work. Rusted inside, no water. So therefore, it didn’t flush,” says Dr. Carole Barner Seay.
“No running water at all,” says Dr. Shirley Green-Reese.
“Beyond filthy./ Spiderwebs. /There was just as much dirt and trash on the floor, like you were still walking on the dirt outside,” says Dr. Carole Barner Seay.
“We had to clean our space with our clothes, the clothes we had on our backs. And they’re the same clothes that we had during the day that we had during the day the we were arrested,” says Dr. Shirley Green-Reese.
And this place is where police held Green Seay and 13 other young girls captive for two months. Each day, their only food, four egg sandwiches or four barely cooked hamburgers. The food wrappers they used for toilet paper. The ordeal ended for the girls when photographer Danny Lyon Snuck onto the property and took pictures that made national news. Then Federal authorities ordered the girls freed.
“First African-American police officer, and then also, she worked with the State Department also.”
In the years that passed, those girls grew into wildy successful women mentoring a new generation. Both Green and Seay earned doctorates and give back to their communities regularly.
“Sometimes, you know, they may refer to us as ‘sheroes.’ But we are, just like I say, foot soldiers,” says Dr. Shirley Green-Reese.
“In every aspect of what happened to me in during 19-63, it didn’t make me bitter. It made me better,” says Dr. Carole Barner Seay.
Better, from an experience that most of us could not endure one day much less 60.