To Be Young, Gifted and Black

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"To Be Young, Gifted and Black"
Song by Nina Simone
from the album Black Gold
RecordedOctober 26, 1969
VenuePhilharmonic Hall, New York City
GenreSoul, blues
Composer(s)Nina Simone
Lyricist(s)Weldon Irvine
Producer(s)Stroud Productions
Official audio
"Nina Simone - To Be Young, Gifted and Black (Audio)" on YouTube

"To Be Young, Gifted and Black" is a song by Nina Simone with lyrics by Weldon Irvine. She introduced the song on August 17, 1969, to a crowd of 50,000 at the Harlem Cultural Festival, captured on broadcast video tape and released in 2021 as the documentary film Summer of Soul.[1][2] Two months later, she recorded the song as part of her concert at Philharmonic Hall, a performance that resulted in her live album Black Gold (1970). Released as a single, it peaked at number 8 on the R&B chart and number 76 on the Hot 100 in January 1970.[3]

The title of the song comes from Lorraine Hansberry's autobiographical play, To Be Young, Gifted and Black.[4][5] The song is considered an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.[6]


"To Be Young, Gifted and Black" was written in memory of Simone's late friend Lorraine Hansberry, author of the play A Raisin in the Sun, who had died in 1965 aged 34.[7][8]

Cover Versions[edit]

Notable cover versions of the song were recorded by:

Popular Culture[edit]


  • The song has also become a popular sample amongst various modern R&B/hip-hop pieces, including Rah Digga's 2003 unreleased record "On the Move", Faith Evans' 2014 single "I Deserve It", featuring Missy Elliott and Sharaya J, and on the title track of Rapsody's 2017 album Laila's Wisdom.


  1. ^ Ryan, Patrick. "Sundance 2021: Questlove takes us to forgotten 'Black Woodstock' in joyous concert doc 'Summer of Soul'". USA TODAY.
  2. ^ Obenson, Tambay (January 29, 2021). "'Summer of Soul' Review: Questlove's Directorial Debut Captures the Legacy of Forgotten 'Black Woodstock'".
  3. ^ "Nina Simone". Billboard.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 528.
  5. ^ "Songs of Black Lives Matter: Nina Simone, "To Be Young, Gifted and Black"". SoulMusic.
  6. ^ "Nina Simone's 'Lovely, Precious Dream' For Black Children".
  7. ^ a b "Nina Simone's 'Lovely, Precious Dream' For Black Children".
  8. ^ "Chadwick Boseman shines a light on Nina Simone's 'To Be Young, Gifted and Black'". Los Angeles Times. January 28, 2019.
  9. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 67. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  10. ^ "Nina Simone at Sesame Street". YouTube. 18 February 1972. Retrieved 2020-03-27.