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On Past African American History (Not In the Books), we discovered fascinating post by Stacy Elmore about Dr. Tyra Seldon: Remembering the Stolen Girls of Americus, Georgia
By Tyra Seldon
While most of the nation was focused on larger cities like Montgomery and Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement, residents of small towns like Americus and Albany, Georgia, were enduring voter rights violations and other oppressions at the hands of the local government and law enforcement departments.
Starting in 1962, members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) traveled to parts of Georgia to help Black citizens register to vote. Once they spent significant time in the area, they decided that additional action needed to be taken to protect the residents. They organized meetings as they attempted to integrate public spaces, like bus stops, and private businesses, such as movie theaters.
Amongst the hundreds of people who took interest in protesting segregation were young teenage girls. One particular evening in 1963, over 15 African American girls between the ages of 12 and 15 found themselves at the center of a controversy that still remains marginal in contemporary discussions about the Civil Rights Movement.
The girls were at a movie theater, demanding that it integrate and allow Black citizens the same dignity and comfort that it offered its white patrons. While outside of the building, the police were called. A big truck emerged, and the girls were arrested and herded off for the crime of demonstrating.
For 45 days, these young women were held against their wills in a stockade that was a part of the Lee County Public Works Building in Leesburg, Georgia, located about 30 miles south of Americus. Because some of the girls had snuck out, or had not sought permission to participate in the protest, their parents did not know their whereabouts.
Once inside the stockade, the young ladies were denied basic needs such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and adequate water for bathing. They were forced to sleep on hard, cement floors and share a singular toilet.
It was not until the local dog catcher told some of the parents where the girls were that the parents even discovered that their daughters were still alive. Shortly thereafter, members of SNCC found out and Danny Lyon ventured to the Stockade in Leesburg so that he could photo-document their living conditions.
Once the pictures and accompanying stories were released in Black media outlets, such as Jet and The Chicago Defender, there was outrage. The Chicago Defender used the title “Kids Sleeping on Jail Floor: Americus Hellhole for Many,” to elicit empathy and public condemnation about the inhumane living conditions that the girls had to endure.
In September 1963, they were released without being charged of any crimes; yet, paradoxically, their parents had to pay two dollars as a boarding fee. Because of their treatment, they would forever become known as the Stolen Girls.
To learn more about the young ladies, click here