One of history's boldest and groundbreaking women, the legendary songstress and civil rights icon Nina Simone is receiving another honor as her childhood home will now become a National Treasure in her birthplace of Tryon, N.C.
National Trust for Historic Preservation announced the news Tuesday (June 19). The National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund are now working with black artists Adam Pendleton, Rashid Johnson, Ellen Gallagher, and Julie Mehretu.
The group of artists were previously known for restoring the home in 2017 after they collectively purchased it for $95,000.
“Nina Simone’s distinctive voice and social critique in the mid-20th century was unlike anything America had ever heard before,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in a statement.
“And while her musical and social justice legacy burns 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.”
The home was where Simone, born Eunice Waymon in 1933, began crafting her musical gifts at the age of 3 was where she taught herself how to play the piano. Several decades later, the vacant building up for sale in 2016 after began to fall apart from wear-and-tear and lack of consistent upkeep.
Pendleton also shared in a statement the group's joy over the new developments to the home.
“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 our country espouses by demanding that we live up to them. We are honored to partner with the National Trust to further protect her legacy.”
In an interview with The New York Times, Pendleton also added that he did not wish to turn the home into a museum, but rather a place that reflects what the home was.
“I’m much more interested in restoring it so that it reflects what it was like when the Waymons lived there. I think it’s important to note that it looks like a very humble dwelling.”
Simone’s daughter Lisa said it brings her delight to see the childhood home being honored.
“Standing for something one believes in often requires great courage in the face of harsh criticism and judgment,” she 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. As her only child, it brings me great joy to see my mother, Dr. Nina Simone, honored and remembered as mightily as she lived.”
The National Treasure dedication for Simone’s home is being held today in Tryon, N.C.