Freedom Singers: Music of the Albany Movement

Rutha Harris
Rutha Harris

Music is one of the lasting legacies of the Movement and it was spread around the country, even the world, by a renowned group formed right here called the Freedom Singers.

That goose bump-inducing voice belongs to Rutha Mae Harris, a founding member of the Freedom Singers.   "It's a gift from God, and I use it as often as I can," she said. "The Freedom Singers carried the story of the Civil Rights Movement through song."

She carried that story through 46 states, more than 50,000 miles in nine months raising money for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

But it all started in Albany.  "There was no music like the music here in Southwest Georgia."

Historians agree.  "The Albany sound was distinct. It was acapella."

And it was one of the Albany Movement's greatest contributions to the national Civil Rights Movement.  "People left Albany and went to other Civil Rights sites and carried those songs with them."

In Albany, those freedom songs were a vital part of the movement's mass meetings.  "The songs would inspire you to get up out your seat and join that march."

Harris's voice was so inspiring even the police chief would ask her to sing from jail.  "Pritchett would always holler into my cell and say 'Hey Rutha, sing that song about me and Kelly.' I don't know why he would ask me. I musta sound pretty good to him."

And she still sounds good today, keeping the music of the movement alive.  "Without the music, I don't believe there would have been a movement."

And without Rutha Harris the music of the movement wouldn't have been what it was and what it remains today.

Rutha Harris formed the Albany Civil Rights Institute Freedom Singers in 1998 to keep the songs and stories of the Albany Movement alive.

You can hear them right here at the museum the second Saturday of each month.


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