Essay on Civil Rights, Equality and the Music of Nina Simone

2399 Words 10 Pages
Nina Simone used music to challenge, provoke, incite, and inform the masses during the period that we know as the Civil Rights Era. In the songs” Four Women”, “Young Gifted and Black”, and Mississippi God Damn”, Nina Simone musically maps a personal "intersectionality" as it relates to being a black American female artist. Kimberly Crenshaw defines "intersectionality" as an inability for black women to separate race, class and gender. Nina Simone’s music directly addresses this paradigm. While she is celebrated as a prolific artist her political and social activism is understated despite her front- line presence in the movement. According to Ruth Feldstein “Nina Simone recast black activism in the 1960’s.” Feldstein goes on to say …show more content…
In this essay I will attempt to underscore and celebrate Simone’s activist efforts through song and demonstrate the messages in the music about race, gender, and class.

Four Women

During the 1960’s black women were beginning to challenge the stereo-types that defined them, these types were hold over classifications from slavery.

Mammie, Jezebel, and the ever ready prostitute and Sapphire. In “Four Women” Nina Simone links the history of black women in America as defined

by main stream collective consciousness, to these four stereo-types. The sixties had found black women in a more urban context however, these stereotypes were still being tackled consciously and unconsciously. “Four Women” was a call for collective self-representation and self-presentation..

What is remarkable about Four Women is the skillful yet overt approach to dealing with a sensitive construct. The song is

in many regards a query. The question in Four Women is who are black women beyond these archetypes? Who am I? Each woman in “Four Women” asks after describing themselves physically. What do they call me? Nina Simone seeks to examine black women’s participation in embracing these definitions as truths. Do black women only exist within these four spheres and if so where does…