Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Commentaries on this Media!

Nina Simone - Mississippi Goddam

by Matt Delmont

In her autobiography, Nina Simone recalled that she wrote “Mississippi Goddam” in response to the Birmingham church bombing:
I was sitting there in my den . . . when news came over the radio that somebody had thrown dynamite into the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama while black children were attending a Bible study class. . . . It was more than I could take, and I sat struck dumb in my den like St. Paul on the road to Damascus: all the truths that I had denied to myself for so long rose up and slapped my face. The bombing of the little girls in Alabama and the murder of Medgar Evers were like the final pieces of a jigsaw that made no sense until you had fitted the whole thing together. I suddenly realized what it was to be black in America in 1963.
The lyrics of “Mississippi Goddam” express Simone’s indignation at the repeated acts of racial terror in the United States: “Alabama’s got me so upset / Tennessee made me lose my rest / And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam.” With “everybody knows,” Simone captures the fact that, with national media coverage of the assassination of Medgar Evers and the Birmingham church bombing, it would have been difficult for anyone not to be aware of these events. Still, Simone makes it clear that this awareness does not equal a commitment or sense of urgency to fight for racial equality: “Why don’t you see it? / Why don’t you feel it? / I don’t know / I don’t know.”

Nina Simone - Mississippi Goddam

Nina Simone performing Mississippi Goddam (ca. 1964)

from Mississippi Goddam (1964)
Creator: Nina Simone
Posted by Matt Delmont