Today marks the birthday of singer, songwriter, actress, and political activist Abbey Lincoln (Anna Marie Wooldridge August 6, 1930 – August 14, 2010).
One of many singers influenced by Billie Holiday, she made her breakthrough in 1956 with her first recording, Abbey Lincoln’s Affair, and her appearance in the film The Girl Can’t Help It. Though she continued to work as an actress, appearing in films such as Nothing But a Man, For Love of Ivy, and Mo’ Better Blues, she devoted the rest of her career to music. She worked with Max Roach on civil rights projects, such as We Insist! The Freedom Now Suite, and later recorded as leader and composer of her own works.
There are Abbey Lincoln photos, letters and business papers in the Music Division’s Max Roach Collection, as well as in an explanation of her significance offered during an interview with Harvard University jazz scholar Ingrid Monson.