Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King
Born impoverished and black in the racially segregated south and losing his sight as a child, Ray Charles was able to overcome adversity on many levels before reaching the masses through music. However, music alone could not unite the heavily segregated South during the Civil Rights era. Though Ray’s extraordinary talent allowed him social liberties not afforded to others at the time, he had first-hand experience with the injustices being faced by blacks in America. On March 15, 1961 Ray refused to play a scheduled performance in Augusta, Georgia after being told the crowd would be segregated.
In his autobiography, Ray states:
“Martin knew exactly what he was doing. And he told his people: Look if you come with me, you might get hurt. You might get beat up. You might get put in jail, or even worse, you might get murdered. But if someone hits you, he said, you just got to take it. If someone beats on you, you look the other way. That’s how we resist. That’s how we make our point. That’s how we cross over.
And then Martin said something which closed the deal for me: “I’ll be on the front line, right there next to you.”
Ray met Dr. King in the early 1960’s and was an avid supporter, both morally and financially, of his causes. On August 28, 1963, over two years after Ray’s scheduled Augusta performance, Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” Speech, calling for an end to racial inequality. Now considered a defining moment in the American Civil Rights movement, the historical speech was the beginning of the end of segregation in America. It is today that we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the legacy of equality and justice that he left behind.
On March 7, 1979 Ray Charles took the stage in Georgia again when he performed “Georgia On My Mind” before the Georgia State Assembly. The performance was to an unsegregated audience. Six weeks later, on April 24, 1979 the Ray Charles version of “Georgia On My Mind was designated as the Official State Song of the State of Georgia by the Georgia State Legislature.