Monday, July 23, 2018

The girls of the Leesburg Stockade

Undesirables. Teens. Girls. Black teen girls.

Arrested for demonstrating in Americus, Georgia, the teenage girls were held in a stockade near Leesburg. They had no beds and no working sanitary facilities.

Before this ICE mess, before America became a place that had no problem bringing to the fore AGAIN its penchant for cheering on the ugly in its midst, there was slavery. There was Jim Crow (which hasn't gone away. It's just morphed into mass incarceration). There were cross-burnings. There were lynchings on Sunday afternoons after church at picnics. With children and their SMILING parents in the forefront of the photos taken. Photos taken to be used as POSTCARDS to be sent to loved ones who'd missed the festivities.

But I digress..

Coming back to the purpose of this post is a photo in an exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.. It shows a group of young Black girls (about 15 to 30 of them. A few were as young as 12) who'd been held at the Lee County Stockade of Leesburg, Georgia. They'd been part of protests, one held  in front of a police station; the other when some had tried to buy movie tickets at an a Whites Only theater. It happened back in 1963 during the Civil Rights Movement.. some girls were from Americus. Some were from Dawson. At this point NONE of their families knew they'd been taken or where they'd been taken.

Children taken away? Children arrested? Children n prison? Now, why does that sound familiar? because it's America doing what she's always done. Ah.America. You love repeating an oldie but goodie.

And these children and their families were citizens.


Anyhoo, this bad look for the land only ended when a photographer involved in the Movement discovered where the girls were. A local activist helped him get into the "prison" by distracting the sentry. He took pictures that later hit the news. The girls were released.

The girls were never brought up on charges but were charged a 2 buck a night boarding fee for their "stay." They'd been held for TWO MONTHS!

So, let the real meaning of "Make America Great Again' sink in. It means "give me the America my White ancestors had" for many. To me it's a myopic cry to recapture a past that was never that great in the first place. Oh, of course for certain folks but never for my ancestors .

Photographer Danny Lyon was working with SNCC in Atlanta when he was sent to Americus to investigate rumors of the jailed girls from the city.

Photos courtesy of Danny Lyon

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