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Plattsburgh Rocks!

Nina Simone: December 13, 1967


Artist series brochure, 1967-1968. Performers included Nina Simone, as well as the comedian Dick Gregory and the folk singer Odetta.

Nina Simone (1933-2003), born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, was born in the small North Carolina town of Tryon. Raised in the church, she began playing piano by ear at the age of 3. Her first documented experience with racism occurred at a piano recital she had at age 11, where her parents were moved from the front row to make way for a white couple. Even after standing up and saying she wanted her parents in the front, they still sat in the seats further back. This event opened Simone’s eyes to reality of African-American encounters with racism. Her community raised the funds needed for Simone to attend the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. She would end up being denied entry to this school, a decision Simone would later blame on racism.

At the age of 24, Simone would make her appearance in the music industry. Famous for her smooth, velvet tones, Simone received a warm welcome in the form of high public approval. She would later produce multiple civil rights songs at a time when racial tensions were high. Simone sought to be a loud voice in the fight for equality, but she had reservations that held her back. Doubts circled her mind about how she would be able to condense the daily fight for equality that African Americans fought in a 3-minute song. Despite her initial hesitation, she located the motivation she needed after the 1963 murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers and the Birmingham, AL church bombing in the same year, which took the lives of four, young African American girls. After these devastating events, Nina Simone put the pen to the paper and created songs that spoke out against the evils of black-white relations in America. Even with songs like “Mississippi Goddam” banned throughout the south, Simone continued to use her voice to enact change at a time when it seemed impossible.


Artist series brochure, 1967-1968.

Nina Simone visited SUNY Plattsburgh during the heart of civil rights movement. Considered a year that predated chaos in United States history, 1967 was seemed to be the prelude to changes in the action of the civil rights era. During a nationwide tour, Simone stopped in Plattsburgh to perform some of her divine music, featured in the 1967-1968 Artist Series brochure as a “Colored Afro-American, far our, strange singer who has hit the big towns.” Nina Simone had already begun making her mark on the public before she arrived. Prior to her visit, she had recorded what would be considered one of the songs of the civil rights movement, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” which was an embodiment of the fight for equality in America. And so she stood on this campus and rose above it to fight for social justice through music.

--Kyla Church ‘21 & Marie Alcis ‘21

Nina Simone, live performance of "Mississippi, Goddam" (1965)

Nina Simone performs "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" in 1976.

Nina Simone: December 13, 1967