This chapter shows that it was more a path emerging than a promise fulfilled that put Nina Simone on a makeshift stage in Montgomery, Alabama, on a sodden March night in 1965. Nina wanted to sing for the bedraggled men and women who had trekked three days from Selma to present their case for black voting rights to a recalcitrant Governor George Wallace. She was following the lead of James Baldwin, her good friend, mentor, and sparring partner at dinner-table debates, a role he shared with Langston Hughes and Lorraine Hansberry. They were her circle of inspiration, writers who found their voice in the crackling word on the page—the deft phrase and the trenchant insight that described a world black Americans so often experienced as unforgiving.
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