Abbey Lincoln Discusses Learning to Protest with Rhonda Hamilton

Jul 26, 2019

As WBGO prepares to bid farewell to Rhonda Hamilton, we're dipping into our archives to share some of her favorite interviews from years past. She conducted this one, with vocalist, songwriter and actress Abbey Lincoln, in 1980.


The occasion was the 20th anniversary of the the album We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite. Lincoln says she was introduced to jazz through the drummer Roach, who would later become her husband, and would be instrumental in teaching her the art of protest. "I was accustomed to not screaming. It took longer for me to get that together... it's been very helpful to me as an actor." It was also the Freedom Now Suite that would establish Lincoln as a serious singer.

The composer and later actress says she grew up in silence in the country, without a radio or record player, though the family did have a piano. Her first experience with music was in the church singing hymns, and in high school heard artists such as Billie Holiday, whom she credits as a major influence.