Equality Spotlight: The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Most people know Billie Holiday as a legendary singer, but a new biopic shows just how important she was in the fight for civil rights.


In our Equality Spotlight, we're take a look at the new movie, The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

The film details how the United States government tried to destroy Billie Holiday's career, since she sang a song about the horrors of lynching.

The song, Strange Fruit, was sampled by Kanye West in 2011 for his song, Blood on the Leaves, and has been covered by other legendary artists like Nina Simone, Annie Lennox and sampled in Rapsody's song Nina.

We sat down with Andra Day, who captures the role of Holiday in the upcoming biopic.

"[We have] to remember that it was her singing "Strange Fruit," in defiance of the government and the death of Emmett Till that reinvigorated Thurgood Marshall and the Civil Rights Movement as we know it," Day said.

Day is making her acting debut as Holiday, which is fitting, since she actually chose her stage name of "Day" as a tribute to Billie, who was nicknamed "Lady Day."

"I want people to understand that she was a Civil Rights leader and I want people to think of her when they think of Martin Luther King, when they think of Malcolm X and Bobby Seale, when they think of these leaders, peaceful or militant. Billie Holiday's name should be at the forefront, if not one of the geneses of that movement."

Andra is already earning Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations for the role, with her co-stars also singing her praises, like Da'Vine Joy Randolph and Miss Lawrence.

"I'm very overjoyed that people are having the opportunity to bear witness to some of what we experienced with her," Randolph said.

"I know what I got from it just filming it, and it's made me a better person and I hope that when the world sees it, the world will become even better," Lawrence said.

The United States vs Billie Holiday is streaming now on Hulu.

For more from our Equality Spotlight, click here.

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