In the summer of 1961, Rutha Mae Harris was home visiting her family after her first year at Florida A&M University. Protests had been erupting in Albany, her hometown, and Harris had to face a question that many young people involved in the struggle asked themselves – would she go back to school or stay and organize?
She knew the need. Harris grew up with strong roots in the community. Her father, Rev. Isaiah Harris, was the founding minister of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church and had been providing literacy classes and encouraging members of his congregation to register to vote since the 1940s. He taught his children to always think that they were as good as anyone else and to never fear any man. Her mother was a schoolteacher and was supportive of the Movement, “She told me that as long as I came back to finish my schooling, it was alright with her.” And so Harris stayed, fueled by the opportunity to fight for her freedom.