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Black Activists - Nina Simone

Updated on August 13, 2013

Nina Simone was born February 21, 1933 in Tryon, North Carolina and died April 21, 2003 in Carry-le-Rouet, France. Simone started as a classical pianist, slowly added other styles of music to her repertoire as well as singing to her performances finally she included a civil rights message and made her music uniquely hers. Simone had a very deep and distinct voice that was like no other and made her a true talent. Simone’s style was a mixture of different genres and a true style all her own. Nina Simone was more than just a singer, musician and activist she was an icon.


Nina Simone was a natural talent when it came to music. Simone started playing piano at the age of 4 and was offered a scholarship to the Julliard School of Music in New York to train as a classical pianist. Simone left Julliard when she ran out of money and moved back home. Simone was rejected from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia because she was black. This was a turning point for Simone musically as she went from classical music to jazz and blues. Simone started playing in clubs at this time and also started to sing while playing. No matter what genre Simone performed in her classical training always shone through making her music and her voice unlike any other. Simone’s music was always a collaboration of classical, jazz and folk as well as other genres together in her unique and special style.


From an early age Nina Simone was taught by her family that all races should be treated equally. Simone’s music changed often and at one point in her musical career Simone would have a civil rights message in every recording. Simone would also make civil rights a huge part of her live performances as well. Because of this Nina Simone would perform and speak at many civil rights functions and meetings including marches and rallies. Nina Simone was more interested in a violent revolution than the non-violent approach civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. took. Because of Nina Simone’s music style and message she was often identified as the voice of the civil rights. Later in her life Simone became disenchanted with the United States racial division and so she lived in several different countries before finally settling down in France.

Nina Simone was a musical genius, a woman with a voice that could sooth any soul. Simone was a universal talent and many of today’s musicians and singers cite Simone as a huge influence in their music. Nina Simone touted some literary giants as her biggest fans, writers like Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin. Nina Simone was a great talent and received many honors, accolades and awards for her contributions to the civil rights movement and to music. Just before her death Nina Simone received an honorary degree from the Curtis Institute of Music, the same music school that refused to admit her because she was black.


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