"Stolen Girl" adds to life experience

March 9, 2007

Americus -- One of the highly publicized "Stolen Girls," Sandra Mansfield, rode out the tornado in Americus and then just hours later received a national civil rights award. Mansfield was inducted into the hall of fame of the national voting rights museum.

Mansfield was gassing up her car, getting ready for a trip to Selma, Alabama the next morning to receive her award, when the storm hit. "After the debris started flying, I ran inside. The door slammed shut, one of them was stuck. I could not get in. I was holding on, the wind was sort of blowing me, and finally I managed to get in here."

Mansfield took shelter in the back room at the Spectrum Store on Tripp Street, next to the cemetery, just a block from the hospital and Winn Dixie shopping center that were all heavily damaged. "We looked out and buildings were down and trees were all over the place. There was a sign on my car."

Mansfield is well known as one of the Stolen Girls. In 1963, when she was 13, Mansfield and 31 other young girls were arrested during a protest and held in the Lee County Stockade for 45 days. They nor their families knew where they were until pressure from Washington D. C. forced their release.

Saturday Mansfield and Carol Seay of Americus were inducted into the Hall of Fame at the National Voting Rights Museum, part of the Annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma.

Mansfield said "It was so exciting, we had a chance to meet with Obama, and march the bridge with President Clinton and Hillary. It was like being with a complete family surrounding me."

Mansfield said it was a hard decision to leave Americus to go to Selma to accept the award. "All I could think about was back home."

She survived human right's abuse during the civil rights era in 1963, and now in 2007 has survived some of the worst storms ever seen in South Georgia, and come out of it all smiling.

Mansfield's home was not damaged by the storm.