Nina Simone Continues to Inspire Artists Near and Far

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Nina Simone is remembered for her activism as much as she’s remembered for her music. Born in Tryon, North Carolina in 1933, Simone grew up in the segregated South and knew racism first hand. After graduating from high school as valedictorian, she was denied entry to Julliard because of her race, which greatly affected her trajectory as an aspiring classical musician. To make ends meet Nina taught music and performed jazz, blues and classical standards first in clubs in the Northeast and later on her first official studio recordings. An initial aversion to protest music “because a lot of it was so simple and unimaginative it stripped the dignity away from the people it was trying to celebrate,” vanished after the murder of Medgar Evans and the Alabama church bombing in 1963 which deeply affected Simone. She became a leading voice of the Civil Rights Movement, offering many iconic anthems to the cause: “To Be Young Gifted and Black,” “Mississippi Goddam,” “Four Women,” and “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.” The list goes on and on. In an era where outspoken African American’s were murdered for publicly demanding justice, Nina Simone’s bold and unapologetic activism defines her artistic legacy to this day. A simple #NinaSimone search on Instagram shows how much that legacy matters to people today. In celebration of the upcoming Nina Simone weekend at the North Carolina Museum of Art, we’ve put together a list of artistic works we found on social media inspired by Nina Simone.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Dare Coulter (@darecoulter) on

 

Dare Coulter is a Raleigh, N.C. based artist who created the art for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s campaign to save Nina Simone’s childhood home. Her murals adorn buildings throughout North Carolina, and the through line in all her work – mural, sculpture or otherwise – is to create positive imagery of people of color.


 

 

 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Yeza Lojo (@yezalojo) on

Billie Holiday was one of Simone’s musical heroes, and we love that this collage connects the two women’s music and legacy. In 1939 Billie Holiday recorded “Strange Fruit,” a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which directly confronted lynching, which Nina Simone revisited in a 1965 recording later sampled by Kanye West.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by NITCH (@__nitch) on

Nitch is a beautifully curated Instagram account that merges stunning portrait photography and inspirational quotes from leading artists, thinkers and scientists. Nina Simone is often featured on Nitch…and this particular quote harkens back to her intentional pivot towards activism: “I had spent many years pursuing excellence...now it was dedicated to freedom, and that was far more important."



 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Panhandle Slim (@panhandle_slim_) on

Panhandle Slim is a Savannah, Ga. based folk artist who much like Nitch celebrates thought leaders and artists through imagery and text.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SUNRA ❤ (@sunra_) on

Nina Simone moved to France in 1993 where she spent the last 10 years of her life. Pictured here is a graffiti of Simone in Montpellier, France.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by NC Music Hall of Fame (@ncmhof_museum) on

The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame uses their social media accounts to celebrate our state’s music stories. Here they’ve captured a picture of the Nina Simone statute in downtown Tryon, N.C. The floating piano keys get us every time.