Nina Simone, Musician and Civil Rights Artist
By Natalie Forde
Nina Simone is one of the many influential people that contributed to history. Her original name is Eunice Kathleen Waymon. She was born in 1933 in Tryon, North Carolina. She was a civil rights activist, author, singer, and pianist.
Simone learned how to play piano when she was three years old and was a singer in her church choir. Over the years her training focused on a classical repertory. Simone’s music teacher raised funds to pay for her education and when she graduated from high school these funds paid for Simone to attend Juilliard School of Music. Although she worked as a piano teacher to pay for her continuing education, she eventually ran out of money to pay for it and had to leave Juilliard.
Simone started playing jazz and blues at night clubs. Throughout the 50s and 60s Simone released many albums that reflected an infusion of musical styles.
During the 1960s, Simone became known as the voice of the Civil Rights Movement.“ She openly addressed the racial inequality that was in the US in the song, “Mississippi Goddam”. She wrote the song in response to the assassination of Medgar Evans and the Birmingham church bombing that killed four African American girls in 1963. The song was released as a single and it was boycotted by certain southern states. Simone quoted that this was her first civil rights song and that her ideas came in a rush of hatred and determination. During the civil rights movement Simone wrote a song about African American women and a song in response to the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Simone also performed outside of Montgomery Alabama during the March to Selma.
Nina Simone recorded music throughout most of her life. She died at the age of 70, in 2003. Simone’s music and the contribution of her voice in the fight for civil rights have made a lasting impression on the lives of many people.