Nina Simone is the voice of a generation. Her music encapsulated the black experience, hardships and feel of living in the Jim Crow South. Today, about 15 years after her death, Simone’s childhood home has become a national treasure.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is responsible for naming this honor and will be working in conjunction with the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund to restore Simone’s home and develop the building to support the continuing endurance of her legacy.
“Nina Simone’s distinctive voice and social critique in the mid-20th century was unlike anything America had ever heard before,” Stephanie Meeks, CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a statement. “And while her musical and social justice legacy burn bright, her childhood home has been neglected. We’re delighted to work with the home’s new owners and the local community to chart a new future for the property that will honor her tremendous contributions to American society and inspire new generations of artists and activists to engage with her legacy.”
Introducing a brand new *official* National Treasure: Nina Simone’s childhood home. We are thrilled to be celebrating her life and this special moment on #Juneteenth in Tryon, NC. pic.twitter.com/U0cBA2DGmd— NC Arts Council (@NCArtsCouncil) June 19, 2018
Simone’s home is currently owned by artists Adam Pendleton, Rashid Johnson, Ellen Gallagher and Julie Mehretu, who purchased the estate in 2017 with hopes of preservation. These dreams have become a reality as the National Trust partners with the owners in search of preservation methods and a way of sustaining the home through public use.
“Last year, my fellow artists and I felt an urgent need to rescue Nina Simone’s childhood home – a need sprung from a place of political activism as well as civic duty,” Pendleton said. “A figure like Nina Simone – an African American woman from a small town in North Carolina who became the musical voice of the Civil Rights Movement – is extraordinarily relevant to artists working today. She constantly expressed her commitment to the democratic values of our country by demanding that we live up to them.”
Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simone, a 55-year-old singer, finds pride in this project and her mother’s story.
“Standing for something one believes in often requires great courage in the face of harsh criticism and judgment,” Simone said. “My mother chose to be an outspoken warrior for that which she believed in. Her birthplace now being named a National Treasure is confirmation that no effort put forth, with true authenticity, goes unnoticed.”
Guided tours of the home were offered on June 19, Juneteenth, along with a celebratory concert.