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Tue, 04.16.1946

Bettie Mae Fikes, Singer and Activist born

Bettie Mae Fikes

*Bettie Mae Fikes was born on this date in 1946. She is a Black gospel singer and activist.

She was born in Selma, Alabama, and began singing gospel alongside her mother at age 4. Bettie Mae fikes is a descendant of a long line of country gospel singers and preachers. At 16, she became a student leader for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the Civil Rights Movement, emerging as a music leader. She was jailed for several weeks in 1963 for protesting during the voting rights struggle in Selma. Fikes began singing with the SNCC Freedom Singers.

Her passion and commitment garnered the Long Walk to Freedom Award and a letter from California Governor Gray Davis acknowledging her role in the American Civil Rights movement. Fikes has graced the stages of Carnegie Hall, Newport Jazz Festival, the Library of Congress, and numerous Blues Festivals, performing for the '64 Democratic National Convention and the '04 Democratic National Convention (where Maya Angelou introduced her).

She has performed with Joe TurnerLightnin' HopkinsAlbert KingJames BrownBob Dylan, and Mavis Staples, among others. She is also a lecturer, having delivered moving speeches about diversity and civil rights at universities throughout the United States and Canada. She has been featured on several recordings, with two albums currently in print under her name. Fikes is a powerful, beautiful woman. She holds Blues audiences in the palm of her well-manicured hand when she takes to the stage and begins to tell each person in that rapt crowd a story.

Yes, she's a storyteller. She'll weave you into her story with her impromptu lyrics; caress you with that throaty, rich, velvety voice until you believe you are the only one in the room. Small in stature, she seems ten feet tall when she's in the spotlight gazing down at you. Her voice can vibrate a room until the walls beg for mercy. Bettie says: "I travel around the country trying to deliver the message that my grandmother passed to me," "I am too strong to be broken down … All I can say is we know where we've been, but we don't know where we're going." 

Mae Fikes is a bright light in this world. She is a beacon of hope, a beloved daughter of Jesus, an adoring mother, a miracle of love to her friends, and a loving mistress to her music. To be in her presence is an honor. To listen to her sing is an unforgettable journey of joy. She is known as the "Voice of Selma." In 2020, she sang at the funeral services for John Lewis, which she indicated might be her final public performance. M

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