Makeba, Miriam (1932–)

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Makeba, Miriam (1932–)

South African Xosa singer and activist. Born Zenzile Makeba, Mar 4, 1932, in Prospect, South Africa; attended Kimerton Training Institute in Pretoria; m. James Kubay; m. singer Sonny Pillay (div.); m. Hugh Masekela (trumpeter and bandleader), 1964 (div. 1968); m. Stokely Carmichael (Black Panther activist), 1968 (div.); m. Bageot Bah (airline executive, div.); children: (1st m.) daughter Bongi (died at 35).

One of Africa's greatest vocalists, began career as domestic worker in Johannesburg; toured South Africa, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Belgian Congo (Republic of Congo) with Black Mountain Brothers (1954–57); starred in semi-documentary Come Back Africa, about apartheid (1959); decided not to return to Africa while attending the film's premiere at Venice Film Festival (1959); had passport invalidated by South African government, making a return impossible; obtained permission to enter US (1959); put African music on international map (1960s); performed at birthday celebration for President John F. Kennedy (1963); saw her recordings banned in South Africa (1963) and career harmed by marriage to Black Panther activist, Stokely Carmichael (1968); moved with husband to Guinea, West Africa, and continued to perform on international circuit; served as UN delegate from Guinea; won Dag Hammarskjold Peace Prize for work against apartheid (1986); after living in exile for 30 years, was welcomed back to her homeland in the post-apartheid era; appeared with Paul Simon on his Graceland tour (1987); released CD Homeland for Putumayo records (2000).

See also autobiography (with James Hall) Makeba: My Story (New American Library, 1987); and Women in World History.