April 9: The Staple Singers record “Freedom Highway”

The activists who marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest for their voting rights on March 21-25, 1965, covered between seven and seventeen miles a day, singing and clapping to spirituals such as “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round,” sometimes in the rain. People waved and brought them food and drink; the marchers slept in black farmers’ fields. When they arrived in Montgomery four days and fifty-four miles later, on March 25, more than twenty-five thousand people had joined them for the final leg of the journey.

On April 9, the Staple Singers picked up on the theme of “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round” with “Freedom Highway.” They recorded the song, and the rest of the album of the same name, backed by a full gospel choir, in Chicago’s New Nazareth Church, with the congregation clapping along. In the title track, an exasperated Mavis Staples boomed that the whole world was wondering what was wrong with the United States, but gave props to LBJ for saying, “We will overcome.”

The album has been re-released this year for its 50th anniversary:


The Montgomery-Selma march can be scene in this clip from “Eyes on the Prize” at 45:35


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