Black History Moment: To Be Young, Gifted AND Black; Ms. Lorraine Vivian Hansberry


By Jueseppi B.






To Be Young, Gifted and Black” is a song by Nina Simone with lyrics by Weldon Irvine. It was written in memory of Simone’s late friend Lorraine Hansberry, author of the play Raisin in the Sun. The song was originally recorded by Simone for her 1970 album Black Gold; released as a single, it became a Top Ten R&B hit and a Civil Rights anthem.



NINA SIMONE To Be Young,Gifted & Black [ Live 1970 ].wmv


Uploaded on Jan 21, 2010

Nina’s live recording of her Civil Rights Anthem written by the late Weldon Irvine.Recorded 1969.







“To be Young, Gifted and Black”
Single by Nina Simone from the albumBlack Gold
Released 1970
Recorded album recording live at Philharmonic Hall,

single was a studio recording

Genre Soul, Blues, Gospel, Civil Rights Anthem
Label RCA Records
Writer Weldon Irvine
Composer Nina Simone
Producer Stroud productions
Cover versions
Aretha FranklinDonny Hathaway
Black Gold track listing
The Assignment Sequence To be Young,

Gifted and Black




Notable cover versions of the song were recorded by Donny Hathaway (on his 1970 album Everything Is Everything), Aretha Franklin (on her 1972 album Young, Gifted and Black) and Bob and Marcia (whose 1970 recording reached number 5 in the UK Singles Chart). The Jamaican rocksteady/reggae trio The Heptones, recorded a version for Coxsone Dodd‘s Studio One label in 1970.







Lorraine Vivian Hansberry (May 19, 1930 – January 12, 1965) was an African American playwright and author of political speeches, letters, and essays. Her best known work, A Raisin in the Sun, was inspired by her family’s battle against racial segregation in Chicago.



Born Lorraine Vivian Hansberry
May 19, 1930
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died January 12, 1965 (aged 34)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Playwrightwriterstage


Nationality American
Education The New School




Lorraine Hansberry was the youngest of four children of Carl Augustus Hansberry, a successful real estate broker, and Nannie Louise Perry. In 1938, her father bought a house in the Washington Park Subdivision of the South Side of Chicago, violating a restrictive covenant and incurring the wrath of many neighbors. The latter’s legal efforts to force the Hansberrys out culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court‘s 1940 decision in Hansberry v. Lee holding the restrictive covenant in the case contestable, though not inherently invalid.


Hansberry attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, but found college uninspiring and left in 1950 to pursue her career as a writer in New York City, where she attended The New School. She worked on the staff of the black newspaper Freedom under the auspices of Paul Robeson, and worked with W. E. B. DuBois, whose office was in the same building. A Raisin in the Sun was written at this time, and was a huge success. It was the first play written by an African-American woman to be produced on Broadway. Aged 29, she became the youngest American playwright and only the fifth woman to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. While many of her other writings were published in her lifetime – essays, articles, and the text for the SNCC book The Movement, the only other play given a contemporary production was The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window


In 1961, Hansberry was set to replace Vinnette Carroll as the director of the musical, Kicks and Co, after its try-out at Chicago’s McCormick Place. It was written by Oscar Brown, Jr. and featured an interracial cast including Lonnie Sattin, Nichelle Nichols, Vi Velasco, Al Freeman, Jr., Zabeth Wilde and Burgess Meredith in the title role of Mr. Kicks. A satire involving miscegenation, the $400,000 production was co-produced by her husband Robert Nemiroff; despite a warm reception in Chicago, the show never made it to Broadway.




After a battle with pancreatic cancer she died on January 12, 1965, aged 34. Hansberry was prescient about many of the increasingly troubling conditions in the world, and worked to remedy them with literature. Baldwin believed “it is not at all farfetched to suspect that what she saw contributed to the strain which killed her, for the effort to which Lorraine was dedicated is more than enough to kill a man.” Hansberry’s funeral was held in Harlem on January 15, 1965. Paul Robeson gave her eulogy. The presiding reverend, Eugene Callender, recited messages from James Baldwin and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. which read: “Her creative ability and her profound grasp of the deep social issues confronting the world today will remain an inspiration to generations yet unborn.” She is buried at Asbury United Methodist Church Cemetery inCroton-on-Hudson, New York.




Other works

The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window ran for 101 performances on Broadway and closed the night she died. Her ex-husband Robert Nemiroff became the executor for several unfinished manuscripts. He added minor changes to complete the play Les Blancs, which Julius Lester termed her best work, and he adapted many of her writings into the play To Be Young, Gifted and Black, which was the longest-running Off Broadway play of the 1968-1969 season. It appeared in book form the following year under the title, To Be Young, Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words. She left behind an unfinished novel and several other plays, including The Drinking Gourd and What Use Are Flowers?, with a range of content, from slavery to a post apocalyptic future.


Raisin, a musical based on A Raisin in the Sun, opened in New York in 1973, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical, with the book by Nemiroff, music by Judd Woldin, and lyrics by Robert Britten. A Raisin in the Sun was revived on Broadway in 2004 and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Revival of a Play. The cast included Sean “P Diddy” Combs as Walter Lee Younger Jr., Phylicia Rashad (Tony Award winner for Best Actress) and Audra McDonald (Tony Award winner for Best Featured Actress). It was produced for television in 2008 with the same cast, garnering two NAACP Image awards.




Hansberry contributed to the understanding of abortiondiscrimination, and Africa. She joined the Daughters of Bilitis and contributed letters to their magazine, The Ladder, in 1957 that addressed feminism and homophobia. Her lesbian identity was exposed in the articles she wrote for the magazine, but she wrote under the initials L.H. for fear of discrimination against a black lesbian.


In San FranciscoThe Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, which specializes in original stagings and revivals of African-American theatre, is named in her honor. Singer and pianist Nina Simone, who was a close friend of Hansberry, used the title of her unfinished play to write a civil rights-themed song “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” together with Weldon Irvine. The single reached the top 10 of the R&B charts. A studio recording by Simone was released as a single and the first live recording on October 26, 1969 was captured on Black Gold (1970).


She is the first cousin of director and playwright Shauneille Perry, whose eldest child is named after her. Her grandniece is actress Taye Hansberry. Her cousin is the flautist, percussionist, and composer Aldridge HansberryLincoln University‘s first-year female dormitory is named Lorraine Hansberry Hall. There is a school in the Bronx called Lorraine Hansberry Academy, and an elementary school in St. Albans, New York named after Hansberry as well. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Hansberry on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans. She was the first African American to direct a play on Broadway.




  • A Raisin in the Sun (1959)
  • A Raisin in the Sun (film), screenplay (1961)
    • A Raisin in the Sun (TV film), produced (2008)
  • On Summer (Essay) (19??)
  • The Drinking Gourd (1960)
  • What Use Are Flowers? (written approx. 1962)
  • The Movement: Documentary of a Struggle for Equality (1964)
  • The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window (1965)
  • To Be Young, Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words (1969)
  • Les Blancs: The Collected Last Plays / by Lorraine Hansberry Edited by Robert Nemiroff (1994)

Young, Gifted, and Black(Live)- Donny Hathaway


Uploaded on Jan 13, 2008

If you are young gifted and black this song should really empower and inspire you to reach higher heights. Donny sings from his soul. When this world gets me down I put on some Donny and get inspired to keep moving forward. Enjoy it folk.












Young, Gifted AND Black” 


“To Be Young, Gifted and Black” was first sung by Nina Simone and recorded on her 1970 album Black Gold. The song was written by African-American composer, Weldon Irvine, in remembrance of Simone’s friend, Lorraine Hansberry, a “young, gifted and Black” author and playwright. Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun was the first play written by an African-American woman to be produced (1959) on Broadway. Her last play, To Be Young, Gifted and Black, was produced in 1969, five years after she transitioned on January 12, 1965 at a mere 34 years old.


The song “Young, Gifted and Black”, sung by Simone, was considered a Civil Rights anthem. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933 in Tryon, North Carolina, Simone was christened the “High Priestess of Soul” by her fans. Simone herself was “young gifted and Black”, considered a child prodigy playing the piano as a four-year-old and studying classical music at the Juilliard School of Music in New York (1951) when she was in her last year of high school.


Simone won an international following during the 1960s Civil Rights movement with several protest songs including “Why (The King of Love Is Dead)”, a tribute to civil rights leader Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which she wrote the day King was assassinated and “Mississippi Goddam”, a tune about the plight of African-Americans, which she wrote and recorded after four African-American girls were killed when a White man bombed an African American church in Birmingham, Alabama.


In her 1992 autobiography, I Put a Spell on You, Simone describes her feelings at the moment she heard of the bombing of the church and her decision to write a song to express those feelings: “I was sitting there in my den on September 15 when news came over the radio that somebody had thrown dynamite into the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama while Black children were attending a Bible study class. Four of them had been killed. Later that day in the rioting which followed, Birmingham police shot another Black kid and a White mob pulled a young Black man off his bicycle and beat him to death out in the street.


“It was more than I could take and I sat struck dumb in my den like St. Paul on the road to Damascus: all the truths that I had denied to myself for so long rose up and slapped my face. I suddenly realised what it was to be Black in America in 1963 – it came as a rush of fury, hatred and determination. I sat down at my piano. An hour later I came out of my apartment with the sheet music for ‘Mississippi Goddam’ in my hand. It was my first civil rights song and it came out of me quicker than I could write it down. I knew then that I would dedicate myself to the struggle for Black justice, freedom and equality under the law for as long as it took, until all our battles were won.”


Although Simone was known as the “High Priestess of Soul”, her repertoire included African songs, blues, gospel, jazz and pop music. In spite of her popularity internationally she suffered racism in her homeland and to escape it and the White supremacist culture of America, she fled the U.S. to live in distant places including Barbados, Liberia, Paris, Switzerland and the Netherlands before moving to Bouc-Bel-Air, near Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, where she transitioned on April 21, 2003.


Her work has been sampled by younger African-American artists including Talib Kweli who sampled “Sinnerman” on his 2002 released “Get By” and Timbaland on his 2007 released “Oh Timbaland.” Simone’s song, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, was sampled by Devo Springsteen on “Misunderstood” from Common’s 2007 album Finding Forever and by producers Rodnae and Mousa for the song “Don’t Get It” on Lil Wayne’s 2008 album The Carter III. The song “See-Line Woman” was sampled by Kanye West for “Bad News” on his album 808s and Heartbreak.


The sampling of Simone’s songs by members of the younger generation may not be protest songs but Weldon Irvine who wrote “Young, Gifted and Black” for Simone a generation ago kept the protest song genre alive for another generation. Irvine produced “The Amadou Project: The Price of Freedom” ensuring that Black music in the 21st century can continue to raise the issues that affect our community.


In reaction to the news of the acquittal of the four New York policemen who had killed unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo (firing 41 times), Irvine produced “The Amadou Project”, a collection of songs dedicated to Diallo in 2002. The 24-track presentation includes offerings from Q-Tip, Talib Kweli and Mos Def rhyming on the song “Make It All Better”. This is reminiscent of Simone’s reaction to the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and the killing of the four African-American children which led to the writing of “Mississippi Goddam”.


The compilation of songs on the Amadou Project is just one reminder that there are now billions of our young people who are “young, gifted and Black.”


The murder of unarmed African-American teen, Trayvon Martin, on February 26 is a reminder that even in the 21st century we still have a long way to go to ensure justice is served when members of our community are injured or killed.


To be young, gifted and Black is still “where it’s at!”























The Faces Of Black America

By Jueseppi B.





Barack Hussein Obama




Muhammad Ali



Sarah Vaughn





Sugar Ray Robinson





Ray Charles





Nina Simone







Minister Malcolm X





Eartha Kitt & Dizzy Gillespie





Diana Ross





Eartha Kitt





Nat King Cole





Tina Turner





Micheal Jackson





Micheal Jackson





Micheal Jackson





Jackie Robinson





Billie Holiday





Freda Payne





James Brown




Jesse Jackson & Marvin Gaye





Dr. M. L. King





Coretta Scott King & Rosa Parks





Hazel Scott





Prince Nelson Rodgers









“One A Day” Black History Month Series ~ Ms. Nina Simone

By Jueseppi B.



Twenty-Fifth in The “One A Day” Black History Month Series…..Ms. Nina Simone.

I listened to Ms. Simone for years never realizing she was not “mainstream”. Of all the major singers of the late 20th century, Nina Simone was one of the hardest to classify. She recorded extensively in the soul, jazz, and pop idioms, often over the course of the same album; she was also comfortable with blues, gospel, and Broadway.

Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003), better known by her stage name Nina Simone (/ˈniːnə sɨˈmoʊn/), was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist widely associated with jazz music. Simone aspired to become a classical pianist while working in a broad range of styles including classicaljazzbluesfolkR&Bgospel, and pop.

Born the sixth child of a preacher’s family in North Carolina, Simone aspired to be a concert pianist as a child. Her musical path changed direction after she was denied a scholarship to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, despite a well-received audition. Simone was later told by someone working at Curtis that she was rejected because she was black.

She then began playing in a small club in Philadelphia to fund her continuing musical education to become a classical pianist and was required to sing as well. She was approached for a recording by Bethlehem Records, and her rendition of “I Loves You Porgy” became a smash hit in the United States in 1958. Over the length of her career, Simone recorded more than 40 albums, mostly between 1958 — when she made her debut with Little Girl Blue — and 1974.

Her musical style arose from a fusion of gospel and pop songs with classical music, in particular with influences from her first inspiration, Johann Sebastian Bach, and accompanied with her expressive jazz-like singing in her characteristic low tenor. She injected as much of her classical background into her music as possible to give it more depth and quality, as she felt that pop music was inferior to classical.

Her intuitive grasp on the audience-performer relationship was gained from a unique background of playing piano accompaniment for church revivals and sermons regularly from the early age of six years.

After 20 years of performing, she became involved in the civil rights movement and the direction of her life shifted once again. Simone’s music was highly influential in the fight for equal rights in the US.

Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina. The sixth of eight children in a poor family, she began playing piano at age three; the first song she learned was “God Be With You, Till We Meet Again”. Demonstrating a talent with the instrument, she performed at her local church, but her concert debut, a classical recital, was given when she was twelve. Simone later said that during this performance her parents, who had taken seats in the front row, were forced to move to the back of the hall to make way for white people. Simone said she refused to play until her parents were moved back to the front, and that incident contributed to her later involvement in the civil rights movement.

Simone’s mother, Mary Kate Waymon, was a strict Methodist minister and a housemaid. Simone’s father, John Divine Waymon, was a handyman who at one time owned a dry cleaning business, but who also suffered bouts of ill health. Mary Kate’s employer, hearing of her daughter’s talent, provided funds for piano lessons.

Subsequently, a local fund was set up to assist in Simone’s continued education. With the assistance of this scholarship money she attended high school.

After finishing high school, she had studied for an interview with the help of a private tutor to study piano further at the Curtis Institute, but she was rejected. Simone believed that this rejection was related directly to her race. Simone then moved to New York City, where she studied at the Juilliard School of Music.

To fund her private lessons, Simone performed at the Midtown Bar & Grill on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City, whose owner insisted that she sing as well as play the piano. In 1954 she adopted the stage name Nina Simone. “Nina” (from niña, meaning ‘little girl’ in Spanish) was a nickname a boyfriend had given to her, and “Simone” was taken from the French actress Simone Signoret, whom she had seen in the movie Casque d’or. Simone’s mixture of jazz, blues, and classical music in her performances at the bar earned her a small, but loyal, fan base.

In 1958, she befriended and married Don Ross, a beatnik who worked as a fairground barker, but quickly regretted their marriage. After playing in small clubs, in 1958 she recorded a rendition of George Gershwin‘s “I Loves You Porgy” (from Porgy and Bess), which she learned from a Billie Holiday album and performed as a favor to a friend.

It became her only Billboard top 40 success in the United States, and her debut album Little Girl Blue soon followed on Bethlehem Records. Simone missed out on more than $1 million in royalties (mainly because of the successful re-release of My Baby Just Cares for Me during the 1980s) and never benefited financially from the album, because she had sold her rights to it for $3,000.



After the success of Little Girl Blue, Simone signed a contract with Colpix Records, and recorded a string of studio and live albums. Colpix relinquished all creative control to her, including the choice of material that would be recorded, in exchange for her signing the contract with them. At this point, Simone only performed pop music to make money to continue her classical music studies, and was indifferent about having a recording contract. She kept this attitude toward the record industry for most of her career.

Simone married a New York police detective, Andrew Stroud, in 1961; Stroud later became her manager.

In 1964, she changed record distributors, from the American Colpix to the Dutch Philips, which also meant a change in the contents of her recordings. Simone had always included songs in her repertoire that drew upon her African-American origins (such as “Brown Baby” and “Zungo” on Nina at the Village Gate in 1962).

On her debut album for Philips, Nina Simone In Concert (live recording, 1964), however, Simone for the first time openly addressed the racial inequality that was prevalent in the United States with the song “Mississippi Goddam“, her response to the murder of Medgar Evers and the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four black children. The song was released as a single, and it was boycotted in certain southern states. “Old Jim Crow”, on the same album, addressed the Jim Crow Laws.

From then on, a civil rights message was standard in Simone’s recording repertoire, becoming a part of her live performances. Simone performed and spoke at many civil rights meetings, such as at the Selma to Montgomery marches. Simone advocated violent revolution during the civil rights period, rather than Martin Luther King‘s non-violent approach, and she hoped that African Americans could, by armed combat, form a separate state. Nevertheless, she wrote in her autobiography that she and her family regarded all races as equal.

She covered Billie Holiday‘s “Strange Fruit“, a song about the lynching of black men in the South, on Pastel Blues (1965). She also sang the W. Cuney poem “Images” on Let It All Out (1966), about the absence of pride she saw among African-American women. Simone wrote “Four Women“, a song about four different stereotypes of African-American women, and included the recording on her 1966 album Wild Is the Wind.

Together with Weldon Irvine, Simone turned the late Lorraine Hansberry‘s unfinished play To Be Young, Gifted, and Black into a civil rights song. Hansberry had been a personal friend whom Simone credited with cultivating her social and political consciousness. She performed the song live on the album Black Gold (1970). A studio recording was released as a single, and renditions of the song have been recorded by Aretha Franklin (on her 1972 album Young, Gifted and Black) and by Donny Hathaway

Simone left the United States in September 1970, flying to Barbados and expecting Stroud to communicate with her when she had to perform again. However, Stroud interpreted Simone’s sudden disappearance, and the fact that she had left behind her wedding ring, as an indication of a desire for a divorce. As her manager, Stroud was in charge of Simone’s income.

When Simone returned to the United States she learned that a warrant had been issued for her arrest for unpaid taxes (as a protest against her country’s involvement with the Vietnam War), causing her to return to Barbados again to evade the authorities and prosecution. Simone stayed in Barbados for quite some time and she had a lengthy affair with the Prime Minister, Errol Barrow. A close friend, singer Miriam Makeba, then persuaded her to go to Liberia. After that she lived in Switzerland and the Netherlands, before settling in France during 1992.

She recorded her last album for RCA, It Is Finished, during 1974. Simone did not make another record until 1978, when she was persuaded to go into the recording studio by CTI Records owner Creed Taylor. Her choice of material retained its eclecticism, ranging from spiritual songs to Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl“. Four years later Simone recorded Fodder On My Wings on a French label. During the 1980s Simone performed regularly at Ronnie Scott‘s jazz club in London, where she recorded the album Live at Ronnie Scott’s in 1984.

In 1987, the original 1958 recording of “My Baby Just Cares For Me” was used in a commercial for Chanel No. 5 perfume in the United Kingdom. This led to a re-release of the recording, which stormed to number 4 on the UK’s NME singles chart, giving her a brief surge in popularity in the UK. Her autobiography, I Put a Spell on You, was published in 1992. She recorded her last album, A Single Woman, in 1993.

In 1993, Simone settled near Aix-en-Provence in Southern France. She had suffered from breast cancer for several years before she died in her sleep at her home in Carry-le-RouetBouches-du-Rhône on April 21, 2003. (In addition, Simone received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in the late 1980s).

Her funeral service was attended by singers Miriam Makeba and Patti Labelle, poet Sonia Sanchez, actor Ossie Davis, and hundreds of others. Elton John sent a floral tribute with the message “You were the greatest and I love you”. Simone’s ashes were scattered in several African countries. She left behind a daughter, Lisa Celeste Stroud, an actress and singer, who took the stage name Simone, and has appeared on Broadway in Aida.

Simone’s bearing and stage presence earned her the title “High Priestess of Soul”. She was a piano player, singer, and performer, “separately and simultaneously”. On stage, Simone moved from gospel to blues, jazz, and folk, to numbers with European classical styling, and Bach-style fugal counterpoint. She incorporated monologues and dialogues with the audience into the program, and often used silence as a musical element. Simone compared it to “mass hypnosis. I use it all the time”.

On Human Kindness Day 1974 in Washington, D.C., more than 10,000 people paid tribute to Nina Simone. Simone received two honorary degreesin music and humanities, from the University of Massachusetts and Malcolm X College. She preferred to be called “Dr. Nina Simone” after these honors were bestowed upon her. Only two days before her death, Simone was awarded an honorary degree by the Curtis Institute, the music school that had refused to admit her as a student at the beginning of her career. In 2010, Tryon, NC erected a statue in her honor along Trade street.

Next in The “One A Day” Black History Month Series…..Mr. Malcolm Little aka Malcolm X.


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