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Locked Up for Freedom: Civil Rights Protesters at the Leesburg Stockade

Journalist and author Heather E. Schwartz ventures into one of the many dark corners of the U.S. civil rights movement, illuminating the ghastly story of more than 30 African-American preteen and teenage girls from Americus, Ga., who were arrested in the summer of 1963. While young protestors were just as likely as adult protestors to be arrested and mistreated, Americus police did something unusual in this case, moving the group out of the city jail and into an old, Civil War-era prison miles away in Leesburg, Ga. The girls had no idea where they were, and their parents were not informed. Instead, the detainees--the girls were never charged with crimes--were at the mercy of their callous, hate-filled prison guards.

In Locked Up for Freedom, Schwartz explores the nightmare these children experienced. Weaving in background on the civil rights movement, Jim Crow laws and other high-profile events of the period in call-out sections, the book has an interactive feel, engaging readers in a physically uncomfortable yet vitally important topic. Focusing on girls similar in age to her target audience, Schwartz allows readers to see themselves in these young heroes.

Events like the Americus girls' experience have quietly remained in the shadows of U.S. history; in this striking exposé for young readers, Schwartz reveals a disgraceful blemish on the nation's past and gives a powerful voice to the victims. --Jen Forbus, freelancer