Story Corps – Leesburg Stockade Girls

Episode: Leesburg Stockade Girls

Series: Story Corps

Release Date: 1/8/19
Host: Jasmyn Morris

Episode Link and TRANSCRIPT:

Tags: Women, Woman, Civil Rights Movement, Civil Rights, Equality, Leesburg, Protest, Women’s History, Victim, American History, Oral History, Feminism, Activism, 1960s, Postwar, Social Movements, Prison, Southern History, Childhood, Youth History, Black History, African American History


Narrative/Oral History Interview/Reflection This podcast focuses on the stories of some members of the Leesburg Stockade Girls – a group of teenage girls who were jailed for participating in a Civil Rights Movement protest. These members look back on their traumatic experiences being held in a Civil War stockade, and reflect on how the experience continues to affect their lives many years later.

Notes: Lean Agravante: This podcast is very powerful not only due to the horrible experience these girls went through at such a young age but also because of the haunting aftermath of the experience. Decades later, these women still felt the psychological repercussions of the unfair conditions they underwent. Kera Lovell: I like assigning this podcast episode because this story is one of the reasons I became a history major as an undergraduate.

In August 1963, African-American girls were held in a Georgia stockade after being arrested for demonstrating segregation. 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 (14), and Billie Jo Thornton Allen (13). Sitting on the floor: Verna Hollis (15). Photo by Danny Lyon.

Assignment Ideas:

1) Creative Writing: Because the podcast focuses on telling this story through oral history interviews with the girls who were imprisoned, their stories of pain and suffering create an opportunity to encourage students to put themselves in their shoes emotionally. One assignment you could implement is to have students choose one of the Stockade Girls and write a 2-page diary entry or letter to the local newspaper from their perspective. Alternatively, students could choose to write from the perspective of one of their parents, exploring how they might have felt without knowledge of their kids for weeks on end. For tips on assigning creative writing in the history classroom, check out Margot Fortunato Galt’s book The Story in History: Writing your Way into the Experience:

2) Storyboarding: The famous Civil Rights Movement photographer Danny Lyon was one of few photographers able to capture the conditions of the stockade. Information on and photography of these imprisoned activists was limited. An exercise I’ve used before when assigning oral histories is to have students create a three-part storyboard that captures what they think were key moments in the text. Students can draw their storyboards on paper or use a service like Storyboard That to create a digital storyboard: 

This is a storyboard created by Kate Felix on Storyboard That, to give you an idea of how the assignment might look, and how it should be tailored to the Leesburg Stockade Girls:

3) Reading in Conversation: The academic media outlet Black Perspectives has featured a mini series on teenage activism in the 1960s and 1970s. Students could be asked to choose one article from the #StudentActivismForum and write a brief response putting the podcast and the blog post in conversation with one another. See the reflection questions listed below for ideas on how to encourage students to target their answers.

4) Primary Source Comparison: There are a wealth of primary sources online related to SNCC and the Civil Rights Movement. One digitized collection that might be useful for an assignment are the Faith Holsaert Papers via Duke University. There you can find digitized pamphlets, newsletters, newspapers, images, personal letters, press releases, and more. I would recommend having students choose three different types of primary sources (such as the categories listed above) and have them put the information they’ve gathered in conversation with what they learned in the podcast. Warning: You might have to instruct students on where to look for the digitized sources, which is pretty easy to find at the top of the page:

Potential Reflection Questions:

1) What was the cultural significance of the Leesburg Stockade? How was it similar to/different from every other response to a civil rights protest at the time?

2) Why has this incident been overlooked in histories of the Civil Rights Movement? Why is it important story to remember?

3) How did gender impact the experiences of these activists (for example, in terms of menstruation, pregnancy, or rape)? Does this event have any greater significance because all the participants were girls/women? What aspects of the Civil Rights Movement seem to be overlooked from a feminist lens?

Another original photo taken by Danny Lyon used as evidence to free the girls. All of the victims had to sleep on the concrete during the duration of their time in the stockade.

Other Relevant Sources:

Article: Donna Owens, “The Stolen Girls,” Essence (December 16, 2009): pp. 162-167, 218-219:

Wiki overview:

Book: Locked Up for Freedom: Civil Rights Protesters at the Leesburg Stockade by Heather E. Schwartz provides a well-synthesized and more detailed history of the Leesburg Stockade

Book: Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC, eds. Faith Holsaert, Martha Prescod Norman Noonan, Judy Richardson, Betty Garman Robinson, Jean Smith Young, Dorothy Zellner (University of Illinois Press, 2012):

Oral History Interviews (with women who were activists in the Civil Rights Movement):

Photos: More photos by Danny Lyon of the Leesburg Stockade Girls:

Documentary Short (on the Leesburg Stockade Girls):

[Caption for Header Photo: Taken in 2016, (left to right) Emmarene Kaigler-Streeter, Carol Barner-Seay, Shirley Green-Reese and Diane Bowens stand outside the stockade building in Leesburg, Ga., where they were jailed in 1963. ]

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