January 19, 2009


We met Dr. King in 1963 at Montgomery, Alabama. We happened to be there, we were working there that night. And Pops called us all to his room that Sunday morning and said, "Listen you all, I'm going down to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church to see Dr. Martin Luther King. I've been hearing this man and I want to see him and I want to meet him." So he wanted to know if we wanted to go with him. We said, "Yeah, Daddy, we want to go." We all went to his church at 11 o'clock service. Dr. King was a young man. Coretta King was singing in the choir, she had a baby in the arms. And he acknowledged us and at the end of the service, Dr. King stands at the back of the church at the door, to shake hands with everyone. And he spoke to Pops. He talked for a while. We get back to the hotel and Pops called us to his room again. He said, "Listen you all, I really like this man's message. And I think if he can preach that, we can sing it." And we said, "Okay, Daddy." So we started writing protest songs. Our first protest song we wrote was March Up Freedom's Highway. That was for the march from Montgomery to Selma. Then we wrote Washington Is A Long Walk to D.C. for the march to Washington D.C., and on and on. We'll Get Over. When Will We Be Paid For The Work We Done. We joined the movement. We traveled with Dr. King, to help raise funds for the movement. Pops wrote a song called Why Am I Treated So Bad. He had seen the Little Rock 9, you know, we were sitting in the living room, watching the news, Pops laying back in the recliner. And everyone had given these kids permission to go to school, I mean, to board that bus. The governor, the mayor, the president. Everyone had given them permission to board the bus. This particular morning when they got ready to board the bus, a policeman put his billy club across the door. And Pops laying back in the recliner, he said, "Now why they doin' that? Why they treatin 'em like that? Why they treatin 'em so bad?" He started writing that song right then. And that turned out to be Dr. King's favorite. Any time we were together, he would say, "Stape, you gonna sing my song tonight, right?" Pops said, "Yeah, we gonna sing it, Doctor, we gonna sing it." So that was some cherished memories, meeting Dr. King and, and traveling with him, listening to him speak every night. Just moments you'll never forget. - mavis staples

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