Student Work

Student Authors - Charlotte Winczer and Patricia Potter


Abbey Lincoln by Charlotte Winczer



Abbey Lincoln was an influential jazz singer, prolific songwriter, artist, and actress; whose career spanned half a century. She was born Anna Marie Wooldridge in Chicago on August 6, 1930 and died in a nursing home on Manhattan’s upper west side shortly after her eightieth birthday on August 14, 2010. Though no official cause of death was given, her brother explained to the New York Times that she had been in declining health since undergoing open heart surgery in 2007. Her body was cremated, and her ashes were scattered. Donations in her honor can be sent to the Jazz Foundation of America.

The 10th of 12 children, during her childhood in rural Michigan Ms. Lincoln taught herself to play the piano and sang gospel music at school. As a teenager she worked as a maid and continued singing eventually working her way west. In Honolulu she appeared with Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. Through the 1950s in Los Angeles, she performed in supper clubs, recorded songs and acted in films. Her manager, Bob Russell, suggested the stage name Abbey Lincoln, a hybrid of Westminster Abbey and Abraham Lincoln. She was portrayed as a sex kitten on the cover of Ebony magazine famously wearing a dress worn by Marilyn Monroe. Disappointed that her sex appeal overshadowed her vocal talent she gravitated toward the jazz genre and adopted her fellow musicians’ interest in civil rights issues.

By 1960 Ms. Lincoln moved to New York and performed on the landmark jazz civil rights recording, “We Insist! – Freedom Now Suite” by drummer Max Roach, whom she married. She also starred with Ivan Dixon in the independent film, Nothing but a Man, and co-starred with Sidney Poitier and Beau Bridges in For Love of Ivy, receiving a Golden Globe nomination for the latter. Her image had decidedly changed, prompting one critic to dub her a “professional negro”.

After her divorce in 1970, Ms. Lincoln took an apartment above a garage in Los Angeles to regroup her energies. She visited Africa in 1972 and received two honorary names: Moseka and Aminata. She continued to perform and record around the world while prioritizing storytelling and songwriting.

In the 1980s Ms. Lincoln returned to New York and met producer Jean-Philippe Allard from the Verve music group. A highly successful collaboration commenced in 1990 that saw the release of nine albums. She appeared as the mother of Denzel Washington’s character in Spike Lee’s film Mo’ Better Blues. In 2003 she was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award. Her last album, Abbey Sings Abbey, was released in 2007. She is survived by two brothers, David and Kenneth, and a sister, Juanita Baker.


Obituary, Abbey Lincoln,, Aug.16, 2010

Nate Chinen, Obituary, Abbey Lincoln, Bold and Introspective Jazz Singer, Dies at 80, N.Y. Times, Aug. 14, 2010

Richard Watters, Abbey Lincoln Funeral / Wake / Memorial Services Tba: Jazz Singer/Songwriter Dies at 80,, Aug. 16, 2010

Abbey Lincoln: Discography

Abbey Lincoln: Wikipedia


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