After the end of the Civil War, there was a national movement to create spaces of education for Black students. The Allen School was founded in 1887 to offer basic education classes for girls, boys, and adults.

In 1924, the Allen School became an accredited high school. The school officially changed its name to Allen High School in 1945. It was that year that the school’s most famous graduate would walk through its doors—Nina Simone.

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina, Ms. Simone was the sixth of eight children. She started playing piano by ear at the age of three and church organ by seven.

She dreamed of becoming the first Black concert pianist in the United States. She also dreamed of a future steeped in equality. During her first recital at 12 years old, Ms. Simone took a stand against the injustices of the Jim Crow South by refusing to play until her parents were moved from the back row to their rightful place in the front.

Ms. Simone enrolled at Allen High School in 1945 and graduated in 1950 as class valedictorian before attending the Juilliard School of Music.

Ms. Simone recorded more than 40 albums, mostly between 1958 and 1974, and became known as the High Priestess of Soul, releasing an album under that moniker. Her music reached across genres and generations.

Ms. Simone was known for being boldly outspoken—personally and socially. In 1964 she began to address racism and injustice in her music with the release of “Mississippi Goddam,” her response to the murder of Medgar Evans and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

She went on to record other powerful songs such as “Four Women,” and “Young, Gifted, and Black,” a tribute to her friend Lorraine Hansberry that also became an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Mr. Simone died in her sleep on April 21, 2003, in France.

In 2017, the childhood home of Nina Simone was listed for sale in Tryon, North Carolina. Four artists formed an LLC, purchased it, and have been working with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Nina Simone Project, the World Monuments Fund, and the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission to preserve the small home. A statue of Nina Simone has also been added to downtown Tryon in her memory.