‘If it had not been for the music of the Civil Rights Movement, there would not have been a movement’

Original Freedom Singer Rutha Harris recalls importance of music in Civil Rights Movement

Music During Civil Rights Movement

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The soul and spirit of Southwest Georgia’s role in the Civil Rights Movement can best be encapsulated through song.

Albany native Rutha Harris, one of the original Freedom Singers, recalled being one of the original singers who keeps the music alive today.

“I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom,” Harris sang.

The melodious sound of her voice is one that fills a room, stops a crowd and has even changed lives.

Harris, 78, reflects on her days with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, commonly referred to as SNCC.

“I was approached by either Charles Sherrod or Cordell Reagon asking if I wanted to be free," Harris recalled. "I said ‘what do you mean if I want to be free? I am free.’”

Rutha Harris, an original freedom singer, opens up about the Civil Rights Movement

Freedom Singer and Albany Native Rutha Harris sit down to discuss her role in the Civil Rights Movement. WALB News 10 is producing a 1 hour Civil Rights Movement special one month from today. Here's a sneak preview of my story!

Posted by Ashley Bohle WALB on Monday, January 28, 2019

Harris had just completed her freshman year of college in the summer of the early 60s when she began to get involved in the Civil Rights Movement — not realizing just how sheltered her father kept her and her siblings away from segregation.

“We couldn’t go to the movies because he said ’I bought you a television.' We couldn’t go to a hotel because he said ‘I built this house for you,’” Harris said.

After joining the Freedom Singers, she saw her rights and the rights of all blacks inhibited.

I didn’t want anybody else telling me I got your freedom. I became involved because I wanted to be free,”
Harris said.

Little did Harris know becoming a founding member of the group would change her life forever.

“This group traveled 50,000 plus miles in nine months, covering 46 states," Harris recalled. "At that time there were only 48 states.”

The songs empowered the singers to not feel afraid of being hit by the Billy club or of dog attacks.

“If it had not been for the music of the Civil Rights Movement, there would not have been a movement,”
Harris said.

The movement changed Harris’ life, and in turn, she is changing the lives of others.

“We must keep fighting, freedom is a constant struggle. And we cannot let up,”
Harris said.

The Freedom Singers’ legacy lives on.

The second Saturday of each month, Harris still sings with a group at the Albany Civil Rights Institute to teach people about the Freedom Singers.

Copyright 2019 WALB. All rights reserved.