January 25, 2023

Today in History: Billie Holiday

Last Updated on April 7, 2020

Portrait of Billie Holiday
Today in History–April 7–the Library of Congress features jazz singer Billie Holiday, born on this date in 1915 in Baltimore, Maryland. Although she had no formal music training, Holiday arranged and composed music in addition to singing. Her 1939 rendition of Lewis Allan’s “Strange Fruit,” a song about lynching, was described in the liner notes to Immortal Sessions of Billie Holiday as “…the most anguished and harrowing expression of protest against man’s inhumanity to man that has ever been made in the form of vocal jazz.” Learn more by visiting the Today in History section, then follow the links below to learn more about this remarkable musical talent.

Jump Back in Time: Billie Holiday America’s Library

Cultural Expressions in the 1940s: Billie Holiday African American Odyssey online exhibition

Billie Holiday image set

Billie Holiday historical newspaper coverage

The Power of a Poem (Bitter Fruit/Strange Fruit) Library of Congress Magazine March/April 2015 (p. 8)

Billie Holiday performs “Strange Fruit” 1939 (YouTube® video incorrectly labeled 1959)

Learning from the Source: Capturing Character on Camera

More jazz-related primary source collections

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