Freedom Singer: 'Without Music, There Would Be No Movement' | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : Tell Me More

Freedom Singer: 'Without Music, There Would Be No Movement'

Play associated audio

"Without the songs of the movement, personally I believe that there wouldn't have been a movement," says Rutha Mae Harris, one of the original Freedom Singers.

Fifty years ago, the Freedom Singers performed along with artists like Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Mahalia Jackson at the March on Washington.

The group came together in Albany, Georgia in 1962. Their mission was to raise money and awareness for the civil rights movement. It's a journey that took them more than 50,000 miles, across over 40 states in less than a year.

Harris tells NPR's Michel Martin that the Freedom Singers were in California when they got a call to board a plane that Harry Belafonte had chartered.

"That's how we got to the March on Washington. We were on the plane with all these movie stars. And the five of us had our own room on the plane," she says. "We thought we were in high heaven."


Interview Highlights

On her memories of the day

"We pushed our way through the crowd because we had to get on stage. But all you could see was people, reflections from the water. They looked like little maggots. There were so many people."

On music and the civil rights music

"There's no separation. Without the songs of the movement, personally I believe there wouldn't have been a movement ... We needed those songs to help us not to be fearful when we were doing marches, or doing picket lines. And you needed a calming agent, and that's what those songs were for us."

On whether she used to fear marches

"You know, I've never been afraid. My Dad who was a Minister, his name was Reverend R.A. Harris. He taught us never to fear any man. And to always think that you are as good as anybody else, but you're no better than anybody else. And on marches, I wasn't afraid, because I knew who was by my side. 'Walk with me Lord.'"

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

As Summer Winds Down, Wistful Dreams Of A 'Lost Estate'

The scent of fresh pencils is in the air, and homework assignments are around the corner. In honor of back-to-school season, author Alexander Aciman recommends The Lost Estate by Henri Alain-Fournier.
NPR

A Food Crisis Follows Africa's Ebola Crisis

Food shortages are emerging in the wake of West Africa's Ebola epidemic. Market shelves are bare and fields are neglected because traders can't move and social gatherings are discouraged.
WAMU 88.5

McDonnell Corruption Trial: Former Gov Defends Relationship With Jonnie Williams

On the stand today, the former Virginia governor defended his relationship with the businessman at the heart of the trial, saying it was appropriate.
NPR

Coming Soon To A Pole Near You: A Bike That Locks Itself

Cyclists may soon have a convenient way to discourage bike thieves, thanks to new designs that use parts of the bikes themselves as locks.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.