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April 7 in Black History: Honoring Billie Holiday and Percy Lavon Julian

April 7 is an important day in Black history, as it marks the birth of two influential individuals who left a lasting impact on the world through their talent, perseverance, and groundbreaking work. Billie Holiday, a legendary jazz and blues singer, and Percy Lavon Julian, a pioneering chemist, were both born on this day. This article celebrates their lives, achievements, and enduring legacies.

Billie Holiday: A Timeless Voice in Music (1915)

Born on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Billie Holiday became one of the most influential jazz and blues singers of all time. Her unique vocal style, emotional depth, and innovative phrasing captivated audiences throughout her career. Holiday’s most famous recordings include “Strange Fruit,” “God Bless the Child,” and “Lady Sings the Blues.”

“Strange Fruit,” a haunting and powerful song that protested the lynching of Black Americans in the South, stands as one of Holiday’s most significant works. The song’s poignant lyrics and her emotional delivery brought attention to the horrors of racial violence, making it an early anthem for the Civil Rights Movement. Billie Holiday’s remarkable voice and moving songs continue to inspire musicians and activists today.

Percy Lavon Julian: A Trailblazing Chemist (1899)

Born on April 7, 1899, in Montgomery, Alabama, Percy Lavon Julian was a trailblazing African-American chemist who overcame racial discrimination to make significant scientific contributions. Despite facing numerous barriers, Julian earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Vienna and later became the first Black chemist inducted into the National Academy of Sciences.

Julian’s groundbreaking work included the synthesis of cortisone, a steroid hormone used to treat inflammatory conditions, and the development of synthetic physostigmine, a compound used in the treatment of glaucoma. Through his discoveries, Julian paved the way for affordable, life-saving medications and made a lasting impact on the field of chemistry.

April 7 serves as a reminder of the enduring legacies of Billie Holiday and Percy Lavon Julian, two trailblazers in Black history who transformed the worlds of music and science. We honor their contributions to the ongoing struggle for racial equality and social justice by remembering and celebrating their accomplishments.


  1. Biography.com Editors. (2021, February 1). Billie Holiday Biography. Biography.com. https://www.biography.com/musician/billie-holiday
  2. Chemical Heritage Foundation. (n.d.). Percy Lavon Julian (1899-1975). Science History Institute. https://www.sciencehistory.org/historical-profile/percy-lavon-julian
  3. National Women’s History Museum. (n.d.). Billie Holiday. National Women’s History Museum. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/billie-holiday
  4. PBS. (2004). Percy Lavon Julian Biography. NOVA. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/percy-lavon-julian/