Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > "And I Want You To Walk Down Freedom’s Road": Rethinking Resistance in the Music of Nina Simone, 1958-1963

This thesis argues that before pianist and singer-songwriter Nina Simone wrote her first explicitly political protest song, “Mississippi Goddam,” in 1963, she was performing resistance through musical activism and the multiplicities of her musicianship. It is grounded in black feminist theory, intersectionality, jazz feminist scholarship, popular music studies, and cultural studies. Chapter 1 looks to Simone’s personal connections, artistic networks, and musical activities around New York City to show that she was resisting racism and engaging with black consciousness, civil rights, and Pan-Africanism during her early career. Chapter 2 analyzes Simone’s musical multiplicity to demonstrate how she was not contained within the category of the jazz singer. It discusses the history of her first commercial hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” and explains how she resisted audiences’ expectations through performance. By interpreting Simone’s early career activities and multiplicities of musicianship as resistance, this thesis shifts her narrative as an activist musician.