Nina Simone’s birthday is this week!
Nina Simone was a famous jazz singer, pianist, and song writer whose work was deeply influence by her experience as a black woman in the United States. Her bold and intelligent lyrical protests garnered the attention and friendship of monumental figures of her day such as James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and Langston Hughes. Songs such as “Strange Fruit,” about white lynchings of black Americans, and “Mississippi Goddam,” a response in part to the murder of Medgar Evers in Mississippi, formed part of her collection of protest songs. Her lyrics brazenly and angrily called out America for its violent and unjust treatment of its African American citizens. In an interview, Simone said, “When every day is a matter of survival I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this. That’s why they’re so involved in politics. We will shape and mould this country, or it will not be moulded and shaped at all.”
From the Cleveland L. Sellers, Jr. Papers, 1934-2003 held by the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture.