This Day in Black History: March 4, 1932

Miriam Makeba

This Day in Black History: March 4, 1932

Miriam Makeba, renowned South African singer and civil rights activist, was born March 4, 1932.

Published March 4, 2014

Miriam Makeba is widely credited as being the first artist to popularize African music around the world.

Makeba, born on March 4, 1932, caught the attention of the entertainment world with the song “Pata Pata,” which was recorded in 1957 and released in the United States a decade later. She recorded and toured with many well-known artists, among them Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon and Hugh Masekela, to whom she was married for a time.

In 1966, Makeba received a Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording for an album she did with Belafonte, An Evening with Balafonte/Makeba. It was one of the first American albums to present traditional Zulu, Sotho and Swahili songs.

Makeba, who was born in the South African township near Johannesburg, was widely known for her work in campaigning against apartheid. The government responded by revoking her passport in 1960. After the apartheid system of racial separation ended, she returned to South Africa for the first time in 1990.

Makeba died in 2008 after becoming ill at a concert where she was performing in Italy.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings /Landov)

Written by Jonathan P. Hicks


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