Born on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina, Nina Simone (original name Eunice Waymon), was a legendary American singer and civil rights activist.

Simone fell in love with classical music at a very young age. At only 3 years old she learned to play piano and was singing in her church’s choir. The young musician continued studying classical piano at the famous Juilliard School of Music, but she eventually had to leave the school as she couldn’t afford paying for it anymore.

Later on, she began performing in night clubs and her career took off in 1957 when she released her first album.

Her songs about love, protest and black empowerment won the hearts of many. Simone was often called the “High Priestess of Soul.”

Along with other icons such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, she spoke and performed at demonstrations, becoming known as the voice of the Civil Rights Movement.

Simone always shared her truth and inspired many other famous performers. Her work continues to resonate strongly.

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Here are 26 Nina Simone quotes that will empower and inspire you:

What kept me sane was knowing that things would change, and it was a question of keeping myself together until they did.

Life is short. People are not easy to know. They’re not easy to know, so if you don’t tell them how you feel, you’re not going to get anywhere, I feel.

I’ll tell you what freedom is to me. No fear!

Greed has driven the world crazy. And I think I’m lucky that I have a place over here that I can call home.

You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served.

This is the world you have made yourself, now you have to live in it.

I am not the doctor to cure it. All I can do is expose the sickness.

You don’t have to live next to me / Just give me my equality.

I feel what they feel. And people who listen to me know that, and it makes them feel like they’re not alone.

You use up everything you’ve got trying to give everybody what they want.

I have to constantly re-identify myself to myself, reactivate my own standards, my own convictions about what I’m doing and why.

Having as little to do with human beings as possible – in some weird way, I’m at peace.

There’s no excuse for the young people not knowing who the heroes and heroines are or were.

I’m just human, I have faults like anyone.

My love is like the wind and wild is the wind. Give me more than one caress, satisfy my hungriness. Let the wind blow through your heart for wild is the wind.

How do you explain what it feels like to get on the stage and make poetry that you know sinks into the hearts and souls of people who are unable to express it?

Slavery has never been abolished from America’s way of thinking.

I had spent many years pursuing excellence, because that is what classical music is all about… Now it was dedicated to freedom, and that was far more important.

I was always a politician from the day the civil rights people chose me as their protest singer.

What is love but a prelude to sorrow… with heartache ahead for your goal.

Sometimes I sound like gravel, and sometimes I sound like coffee and cream.

I think that the artists who don’t get involved in preaching messages probably are happier – but you see, I have to live with Nina, and that is very difficult.

All the time, there was the weight of my community’s expectations on my shoulders.

At this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved.

I want to shake people up so bad, that when they leave a nightclub where I’ve performed, I just want them to be to pieces.

Did you know that the human voice is the only pure instrument? That it has notes no other instrument has? It’s like being between the keys of a piano.