Freedom Singer Rutha Harris, a legendary civil rights activist from Albany, will speak at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College as part of the college’s African American History Month celebration.

The event, set for 3 p.m. in ABAC’s Howard Auditorium, has free admission and is open to the public.

In the 1960s, Harris joined the Albany Movement and was one of the original Freedom Singers, traveling more than 50,000 miles to sing for the cause of freedom and to raise funds for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

Gospel and spiritual vocal group the Freedom Singers (l-r Charles Neblett, Bernice Reagon, Cordell Reagon, Rutha Harris) perform at the Newport Folk Festival in July, 1963 in Newport, Rhode Island.

Harris, whose professional career began in 1963 when the Freedom Singers signed a contract with Mercury Records, has recorded with the Landmark Gospel Singers, the Georgia Mass Choir and Whitney Houston. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, the Civic Opera House in Chicago, the United Nations in New York, the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, The March on Washington in Washington, D.C., and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. She was a member of the Georgia Mass Choir that performed in the movie “The Preacher’s Wife,” starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston.

Harris graduated from Albany State College (now University) in 1970 and had further studies at Valdosta State University, Dillard University and Florida A&M University. In 1998, she organized The Albany Civil Rights Museum (now Institute) Freedom Singers.

In 2004, Harris recorded her first CD titled “I’m On the Battlefield.” In 2010, she performed at the White House in “Performance at The White House: A Celebration of Music from The Civil Rights Movement.” Harris was presented with a proclamation by the Atlanta City Council for her valuable contributions to racial equality in 2011.

In 2013, Harris was presented the National Association for the Study and Performance of African American Music (NASPAAM) Trailblazer Award for outstanding work preserving, promoting and advancing the tradition of African American Music. She also sang at the Inter-Faith Services for the March on Washington celebration held at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.

In 2015, Harris was inducted into the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education Inc. at the Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony. She received the Hero Award in History during the Albany Municipal Auditorium Centennial Celebration in 2016.

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