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> Billie Holiday Print 11" x 17"
Billie Holiday Print 11" x 17"
Billie Holiday Print 11" x 17"
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" You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with
gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles,
but you can still be working on a plantation. "
Holiday had a difficult childhood which greatly affected her life and career. Much of her childhood is clouded by conjecture and legend, some of it propagated by her autobiography, published in 1956.
This account is known to contain many inaccuracies. Her professional pseudonym was taken from Billie Dove, an actress she admired, and Clarence Holiday, her probable father. At the outset of her career, she spelled her last name "Holliday," presumably to distance herself from her neglectful father, but eventually changed it back to "Holiday."
Holiday's grandfather was one of 17 children of a black Virginia slave and a white Irish plantation owner. Allegedly, her mother was only 13 at the time of Holiday's birth in Philadelphia and had moved there in order to hide her out-of-wedlock pregnancy; the 1900 census lists Holiday's mother's birth year as 1896, which would make her 19 when her daughter was born.
Clarence Holiday, 16 years old at the time, was a banjo player who would later play for Fletcher Henderson. (There is some controversy regarding Holiday's paternity, stemming from a copy of her birth certificate in the Baltimore archives that lists the father as a "Frank DeViese."
Some historians consider this an anomaly, probably inserted by a hospital or government worker — see Donald Clarke, Billie Holiday: Wishing on the Moon, ISBN 0-306-81136-7.) In the rare times she did see him, she would shake him down for money by threatening to tell his then-girlfriend that he had a daughter.
She grew up in the poor section of Baltimore, Maryland, near the projects. According to her autobiography, her house was the first on their street to have electricity. Her parents married when she was three, but they soon divorced, leaving her to be raised largely by her mother and other relatives.
At the age of 10, she reported having been raped. That claim, combined with her frequent truancy, resulted in her being sent to The House of the Good Shepherd, a Catholic reform school, in 1925. It was only through the assistance of a family friend that she was released two years later .
Scarred by these experiences, Holiday moved to New York with her mother in 1928. In 1929, Sadie discovered a neighbor, Wilbert Rich, in the act of raping her daughter; Rich was sentenced to three months in jail. Sadie later remarried and abandoned Billie, who from then on was raised by a woman she called Grandma, Martha Miller. Sadie died on October 6, 1945.
Now available 11" x 17" Print
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