Living history: Leesburg Stockade Girl speaks out after 60 years

Dr. Green Reese shares stories of the Leesburg Stockade
Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 7:29 PM EDT
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LEESBURG, Ga. (WALB) - The story of Dr. Shirley Green Reese and the Leesburg Stockade Girls is getting national attention, 60 years after she and others served months in jail for their roles in the Civil Rights Movement.

Leesburg Stockade is where Dr. Shirley Green-Reese was one of 15 girls who were held here for two and a half months after attempting to buy a ticket to the Martin Theatre at the white ticket box.

Green-Reese visited the old jail grounds today as CNN filmed a piece about her experiences back in the 60s.

“It’s tremendous, I am so happy to be here on these grounds today in a positive way. Because I have seen this place and have been here in a sad way when I first made the attempt to come back for the first time maybe a while ago,” said Green-Reese.

Green-Reese says during her time in jail, she suffered from unsafe living conditions and had no access to clean water.

“The city of Leesburg has really helped make a difference for this site. This is a beautiful site, this is a historical site, and this story is going all over the world, and I refuse to let this story go unnoticed,” said Reese.

Dr. Green-Reese tells me that this is the beginning, not the end of her story. She worked to fight for equality as a civil rights activist and hearing Dr. King’s message inspired her to join the march for freedom.

“As a 13-year-old, I did not have all the I’s and Ts dotted. I was naive. I was dumb and didn’t know anything about the surroundings or the people involved. So today, I have a host of people local, state and national who have taken over this story and helped me move it forward,” Green-Reese said.

Green-Reese was one of 15 South Georgia girls arrested and jailed after attempting to buy a ticket to the Martin Theatre at the white ticket box.

“All in all today, it was worth it. So, I got tired of going to the back door of the Martin Theatre. And we wanted to go in the side door because I wanted to be equal like everyone else. But coming up in the 40s, 50s, 60s, the Jim Crow Era, It was tough. It was tough,” said Green-Reese.

She says the first time she decided to revisit the stockade site in Lee County with the other girls, she was sad. But now, she has a new outlook on the situation.

“I’m focusing today on the young girls and the young girls will be my project forever to help guide them with this story. Because this is the beginning of my story, not the end. I’m not going to ever leave this story to make sure that people who have not heard of us will hear of us and come forth to support us,” said Dr. Shirley Green-Reese, Leesburg Stockade Girl.

Today, the Stockade is being used as a museum and a historical landmark. Green-Reese credits Danny Lyon, a photographer, for first exposing the whereabouts of the girls. Now, she’s sharing her story with national and local news outlets, hoping to inspire other African American girls to speak up against injustices.