On February 21, 1933, Nina Simone, often called the “high priestess of soul,” was born in the small town of Tryon, North Carolina.
Determined to become one of the first highly-successful African-American concert pianists, Simone spent a summer at the famed Julliard School after graduating high school in Asheville in 1950. Denied admission to music school in Philadelphia, Simone took menial jobs there.
While on a trip to Atlantic City, N.J. in the summer of 1954, Simone began to experiment with popular music. Word of her talent spread, and she became in high demand at nightclubs all along the Mid-Atlantic coast. After releasing her first album, Little Girl Blue, in 1958, her work began to reflect her increasing involvement in the civil rights movement and her close associations with leading African-American intellectuals like Lorraine Hansberry and Langston Hughes.
Last summer, The National Trust for Historic Preservation designated her childhood home in Tryon a National Treasure.
- Exerpt from the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources' "On This Day" series.