Billie Holiday shaped and influenced early jazz, with her strong and melancholy vocals. Holiday was able to draw out raw emotion that led many to follow her throughout her career. Although in the beginning it was never the intention for Holiday to be an acclaimed singer, she made a space in music which allowed her to thrive and grow. Holiday’s outlook on racism, lynching, and personal experiences led her to define her musical career.

-nafissa johnson

Many know the African American Artist Billie Holiday for her calmingly raspy, soulful, and mellow alto voice. Many also know her for her fame in Europe and impact as a female artist during the 1930’s-50’s. But her impact as an activist often goes unnoticed. Holiday was not the first protest singer of her time, nor would she be the last Black artist to speak about the injustices against Black people in the world but her rendition of Strange Fruit marked a transition in Black music and helped shape what is now known as a Protest Song. Strange Fruit sadly still resonates today, as America has progressed little in the treatment of minorities, and it is the pungent lyrics, combined with Holiday’s deep and enchanting voice that will forever stoke the fire of change.