Abbey Lincoln was born Anna Marie Wooldridge on August 6, 1930 in Chicago. She took the name Abbey Lincoln -- a combination of Westminster Abbey and Abraham Lincoln -- as she began her recording career in Los Angeles in the mid 1950's.
Lincoln released her first album, A Story of a Girl in Love, in 1956. The same year she appeared in The Girl Can't Help It with Jayne Mansfield, becoming known for wearing a dress Marilyn Monroe wore in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
The next year she recorded the album That's Him with drummer Max Roach and Sonny Rollins on tenor sax. Influenced by Roach's activism she became an outspoken civil rights activist, abandoning the glamorous persona of what Joanne Moore called the "Lena Horne track". Lincoln and Roach collaborated on the early protest album We Insist! Freedom Now Suite in 1960. They married in 1962, divorcing eight years later.
Lincoln starred in the film Nothing But a Man with Ivan Dixon in 1964, and in the romantic comedy For Love of Ivy with Sidney Poitier in 1968 for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe award.