LCMS West students to bring light to stockade - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

LCMS West students to bring light to stockade

The stockade is in the Lee County bus yard. (Source: WALB) The stockade is in the Lee County bus yard. (Source: WALB)
This was taken by a photographer. The photo eventually helped the girls get out. (Source: Danny Lyon/Magnum Photos) This was taken by a photographer. The photo eventually helped the girls get out. (Source: Danny Lyon/Magnum Photos)
Dr. Shirley Reese was one of the 15 girls in the stockade. (Source: WALB) Dr. Shirley Reese was one of the 15 girls in the stockade. (Source: WALB)
April Smith is a teacher at Lee County Middle School West. (Source: WALB) April Smith is a teacher at Lee County Middle School West. (Source: WALB)
Opal Cannon lived in Leesburg at the time, but didn't learn about what happened until decades later, (Source: WALB) Opal Cannon lived in Leesburg at the time, but didn't learn about what happened until decades later, (Source: WALB)

Students in Lee County are bringing a story from the past back to light. 

In 1963, 15 African American girls were held in a stockade in Lee County for two months. 

They were being punished after they participated in an integration demonstration in Americus. 

"Oh my god we were frightened, but we had no control," said Dr. Shirley Reese as she looked at the stockade. 

Reese was one of the young girls. She said each time she goes back, she has flashbacks. 

"When I walk on these grounds and inside this building I can remember every single thing that happened while we were in here," said Reese. 

It was July of 1963. She and 14 others between the ages of 13 and 15 were held in the stockade for months after demonstrating segregation.

They were originally told they were being arrested.

After spending one night in the Dawson prison, they were taken to the stockade. She said she had no idea where she was, nor did her parents. She had snuck out to go to the demonstration.

"I had a mission," recalled Reese. "The same mission as Dr. Martin Luther King for equal rights and justice."

At the time, many folks living in Leesburg did not know what was happening in the stockade. 

"When this happened, I was here in town. But it was years and years later that I learned that this had happened," said Opal Cannon.

Cannon can't believe she didn't learn of what happened until recently.

Now, she's trying to help Reese share her story. 

"I think lots of times about how we ignore too many things, but we need to think about it and see how we can improve," said Cannon.

April Smith, a teacher at Lee County Middle School West heard about the story just one month ago. 

"I said this is crazy that this is right here. It's history right down the road," said Smith.

After seeing her students' fascination, Smith decided to make it an even larger project. Now the eighth grade class has a goal. 

"We are going to make this a national landmark because it's an untold story," said Cannon. "It's standards based, it aligns with our curriculum and we are going to be able to take a field trip just by walking."

"I'm just pleased to know that we are moving forward, not only in Americus but all over the world," said Reese. 

She said she thinks students will be able to learn from her experience. 

The students at Lee County Middle School West are putting all of the documents together now.

They are hoping that when folks visit here next year, there will be a plaque, making it a historical landmark. 

MORE: Lost Girls: Remembered half a century later

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