The month of February is dedicated to the appreciation of Black history, culture and recognition of monumental figures that caused great change for African American people. Billie Holiday, the legendary jazz singer will be remembered in the upcoming film The United States vs Billie Holiday.
Holiday was discovered by producer John Hammond while performing in a Harlem jazz club at the age of 18. She became known for her distinctive phrasing and expressive, sometimes melancholy voice.
Holiday, despite facing prejudice because of her race was able to become the first African American vocalist to work with a white orchestra, according to Biography. “Many know Holiday for her song” Strange Fruit where she conveyed the powerful message about the lynching of African Americans in the South.
Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels will be directing the film along with Suzan-Lori Parks, the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama as is the screenplay writer for the film. The film is meant to present the icon’s complicated and irrepressible life. Grammy-nominated singer Andra Day is playing the role of Billie Holiday.
According to Hulu, the film focuses on how the federal government targeted Holiday in a growing effort to escalate and racialize the war on drugs, ultimately aiming to stop her from singing her controversial and heart-wrenching ballad, Strange Fruit.
Holiday’s song Strange Fruit called attention to the horrendous mistreatment of African Americans. It imagined black bodies hanging from trees as a dark fruit native to the South. The song was a bold action by Holiday since she was a black woman, before a mixed audience, grieving for the racist murders in the United States.
Holiday received her first threat from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics soon after she performed the song, according to Politico Magazine.
Phyllis Hailey a junior economics student had some knowledge of who Holiday was but most of that knowledge was on the Jazz singer’s career and not her struggle.
“I heard about the movie and I would be interested in watching it because I didn’t know the singer went through all that” stated Hailey. “I know that she was performing in America back when black people were mistreated but I didn’t think she had anything to do with the civil rights movement.”
Timothy Bass a junior computer science student knew very little about Holiday and when first hearing her name he assumed the singer was a man.
“I know the name but I don’t know where he is from” stated Bass. “I saw her name trending and I thought it was someone important who had just passed. I would be interested in watching it because I don’t know everything that she went through or did but I know her story has to be important for them to be creating a movie about her.”
After being arrested for possession of drugs Holiday went on trial where she showed her strong character and need for help with her addiction. After being sentenced to prison instead she wrote down how she felt during the trial.
“It was called ‘The United States of America versus Billie Holiday,’” she wrote in her memoir, “and that’s just the way it felt.” She refused to weep on the stand. She told the judge she didn’t want any sympathy. She just wanted to be sent to a hospital so she could kick the drugs and get well. Please, she said to the judge, “I want the cure” reported Politico Magazine.
According to IMDb, the movie will be available on the streaming service Hulu on February 26, 2021.