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Presidential Medal of Freedom for 15 Brave Young Women

This petition had 31,101 supporters


History is often shaped by people we never hear about. The Civil Rights Movement is no exception. On July 15, 1963, fifteen young women, ranging from 12 to 15 years-old, took a brave stand that would cost them their freedom. Many Americans have never heard of these courageous women, whose names are listed below; this petition hopes to change that.

  • Diane Dorsey-Bowens
  • Melinda Jones-Williams
  • Mae Smith-Davis
  • Lula Westbrooks-Griffin
  • Verna Hollis
  • Emmarene Kaigler-Streeter
  • Dr. Carol Barner-Seay
  • Dr. Shirley Green-Reese
  • Laura Ruff-Saunders

In Memoriam

  • Billie Jo Thorton-Allen
  • Sandra Russell-Mansfield
  • Annie Lou Ragans-Laster
  • Gloria Westbrooks-Breedlove
  • Pearl Brown
  • Mattie Crittenden-Reese

In 1963, segregation was a horror alive and well in the south. The fifteen children participated in a peaceful march of over 200 people to a movie theater where they attempted to purchase tickets at the theater’s white entrance. It was a defiant, peaceful act against segregation. The young women were imprisoned after the march in an abandoned stockade located in the backwoods of Leesburg, Georgia. The large holding cell had only a single, broken showerhead, and a toilet that didn’t work.

For two months, they endured terrible conditions and circumstances. They were deprived of clean water, adequate food, proper hygiene, and contact with their families for two months.

Honoring these fifteen women with the Presidential Medal of Freedom will send a powerful message about our nation's fight for equality and justice: it was everyday people taking a stand that created a movement for change. It will bring awareness to a new generation, and provide insight to the struggles these young women had to endure in order to receive the basic privileges we often take for granted today.

A letter requesting nomination for the Presidential Medal of Freedom was sent to President Barack Obama on April 26, 2016 by Congressman Sanford Bishop, Congressman John Lewis, & Congressman Hank Johnson. Adding your name to this petition will help with the effort to ensure these women receive this much deserved honor.



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