The National Guard vs. The Freedom Singers

This morning I was sitting in the Control Room at work, talking to a co-worker about the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr Day, and a fascinating story was told that I thought I should share.

First let me start off by explaining my situation around this time last year. A few friends and I wanted to do something exciting and memorable for MLK Day, so we decided to visit the Civil Rights Museum. We called about a week before to get their hours and prices, and were informed that they would not be open! On MLK Day, the Civil Rights Museum was not open! They said that they could open it just for us, but we thought it might be odd to have it open for four white girls for only an hour or two, so we declined.

I was sharing that story with a few people and a co-worker, we’ll call him Ted, says “I should really go down there one day. I bet they have my photo somewhere around there”. This got my attention. I asked him why and he said that he was in the National Guard at the time of the Civil Rights Movement. He then proceeded to share his story. He was called out to control the Civil Rights marchers, particularly the Freedom Singers. He said he only did what he was told, and claimed that his story has come full circle. I asked him how and he said because he remembers Rutha Harris.

Rutha Harris is one of the original Freedom Singers in the Civil Rights Movement. According to an internet resource on Mrs. Harris, she “traveled 50,000 miles in nine months to 48 states singing and telling the stories of the movement through songs. I have done registration drives, picket lines, demonstrations, jailed 3 times for a total of 14 days, I was dragged but never been beaten”. What an incredible yet sad story she has! But how this story comes full circle is the fact that Rutha still sings and shares her stories from the Movement. In fact, she sings in our church at least twice a year! Her church, Mount Zion, and ours, are sister churches. We often have joint worship services, and are both involved in our annual ReFRESH Conference.

I asked (Ted) if he had told Rutha, and he said that he had, and when he described to her how he remembered her, she just hugged him. Now every time they see each other she hugs him as if they were old friends. What a remarkable story.

Here are a few photos I’ve found from Rutha’s days as a Freedom Singer::
She is the woman on the right here…

That is Rutha in the front…

And here she is more recently in the Civil Rights Museum with a cut out of herself

Click HERE to hear her share a Freedom Song and HERE for a New York Times article about her, including photos and audio to a photo slideshow. Make sure to watch that.


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