Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 18

In 1998, Harris created a
new Freedom Singers group.
It performs periodically
at Old Mount Zion Baptist
Church, part of the
Albany Civil Rights Institute.
Carrying on the message of freedom, Rutha
Mae Harris, center, brought together women
in Albany to perform songs from the civil
rights movement at the Albany Civil Rights
Institute.
That October the Freedom Singers recorded a studio album
on the Mercury Records label, but by the end of the year, the
group disbanded.
" We had all become tired. My body was just tired, and I
needed to reflect on the times, " she says.
Harris returned home to Albany to work locally for civil
rights and to fulfill a commitment.
" From the beginning, my mother supported my involvement
in the movement, but there was always a caveat: She made
me promise that I would finish my education, " Harris says.
In 1967, Harris enrolled in Albany State University to earn
her bachelor's in music. She became a schoolteacher at Monroe
High School in Albany, where she had graduated in 1958. She
taught music and special education for more than 30 years and
retired in 2003.
She lives in the single-story home her father built for the
family in 1932. Two buildings in Albany are named for her:
the Rutha Mae Harris Performing Arts Theater at Monroe
Comprehensive High School and the Harris Women's Hall at the
Turner Job Corps campus.
Over the years, the living members of the Freedom Singers
have reunited to perform together. They sang at the United
States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., in
1996; for President Barack Obama at the White House for the A
Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement concert in
2010; and at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark.,
in 2018.
Harris' music and life story still take her around the
country. She's performed solo concerts and made presentations
at conferences and symposiums. In 1998, she created a new
Freedom Singers group. It performs periodically at Old Mount
Zion Baptist Church, part of the Albany Civil Rights Institute.
" For several years we performed once a month, but as time
has gone by, we aren't singing as much, " she says.
In 2019, Harris traveled to Spain, Denmark and Turkey to
help keep the story of the civil rights movement alive, and she
continues to speak at colleges and universities. Last March she
18 Georgia Magazine February 2024
Rutha Mae Harris, Angela Jones and Judge Victoria Johnson share
music sung by the Freedom Singers inside Old Mount Zion Baptist
Church in Albany.
returned to her Albany State alma mater as the guest
convocation speaker during the university's 120th Founder's
Day celebration.
" Those were different times-historic times-and I am
still honored to be a part of it all-the good and the not-sogood.
Although that was more than six decades ago, the
messages are the same, no matter the times, " she says.
" I've always used my voice for good, because it's my gift
from God. "
Pamela A. Keene is a freelance writer from Flowery Branch.
See and hear Rutha Mae Harris and the Freedom
Singers perform
* " Woke Up This Morning " from the 1963 Newport Folk Festival,
bit.ly/newport63
* At the March on Washington in 1963, bit.ly/frsingwash
* " Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round " at the White House
in 2010, bit.ly/frsingbowh
RALPH DAVIS / EXPLORE GEORGIA
PAMELA A. KEENE
http://bit.ly/newport63 http://bit.ly/frsingwash http://bit.ly/frsingbowh

Georgia Magazine - February 2024

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - February 2024

Contents
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 4
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 5
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 6
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 7
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 8
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 9
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 10
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 11
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 12
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 13
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 14
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 15
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 16
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 17
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 18
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 19
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 20
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 21
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 22
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 23
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 24
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 25
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 26
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 27
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 28
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 29
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 30
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 31
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 32
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 33
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 34
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - Cover4
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