Fifteen girls between the ages of twelve and fifteen left their mark on the Civil Rights Movement after being imprisoned for 60 days.
The 1963 Leesburg Stockade Girls were honored March 10 in a ceremony held at Lee County High School in Leesburg, GA.
The high school sits just across the street from the small stockade building where they were held during the hot summer months almost 55 years ago.
The day’s events started off with prayer and a special vocal performance from Rutha Harris, an original Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Freedom Singer.
“Ain’t gonna let no stockade turn me ’round,” echoed around the room as the crowd clapped along to Harris’s musical choice.
“I made up my mind, when I sung the song, ‘Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around’, I really meant that from my innermost being,” Dr. Carole Barner Seay tells News Three’s Jessalyn Adams after the ceremony.
Dr. Barner Seay was one of the fifteen women recoginized for courage, strength, and determination during the 60 day stay in Leesburg.
The fifteen girls, now women, were arrested for their participation in peaceful protests.
Eight of the women are still alive to share their experience, and five of them were present at the ceremony.
Their story is still inspiring people today.
“Your courage is contagious,” guest speaker, Tanya Washington says looking at the five survivors.
The Leesburg Stockade Girls have been honored before in years past, but never in the city where they were held from July to September years ago.
“It’s different, because this is where we lived for two months, so to be brought back home, and the people, black and white, here to honor us today, in a place that we was held,” says Dr. Barner Seay.
She says she met people from Leesburg at the event who had never heard of the stockade’s infamous history. She says they tearfully commended her strength.
Walking inside the stockade, the women say not much has changed, besides the shards of glass being cleaned up. The girls were kept in deplorable conditions throughout the 60 day period. They had no bedding, clean clothes, hygiene products, or working plumbing. They were forced to live in filth.
Today, the five women attended with smiles on their faces, sharing a message of forgiveness and joy.
“I thank God I’m still here, and I thank God that he got into their hearts to want to do this for us, so I’m happy. I’m happy,” says Diane Dorsey-Bowen.
The ceremony ended over at the stockade where people could walk inside and only imagine what these women endured that summer 55 years ago.
Dr. Barner Seay still shares the same sentiments about the hardship. She says she’s not bitter, she’s better.