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Libby Holman

Torch singer Libby Holman was known as much for her scandalous personal life and revolutionary activism as for her lush voice. Holman became the youngest person ever to graduate from the University of Cincinnati in 1923 before moving to New York to become an actress and singer. She performed her first major role in 1925 in The Sapphire Ring, acting and singing in a variety of shows and revues throughout the Roaring Twenties. A lightening rod for scandal, Holman was openly bisexual and was accused of murdering her husband, Zachary Smith Reynolds, in 1932, a case that became the basis for Hollywood films like Reckless and Written on the Wind. Holman first sang her trademark song “Moanin’ Low” in 1929, part of her lifelong focus on African American music and culture. She researched blues and folk music through the Library of Congress’ archives and regularly resisted rules against “mixed shows” by performing with African American musician Josh White despite outcry from theater managers. In later life, she was a friend and supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., funding his expedition to speak with Mahatma Gandhi.

Libby Holman, July 9, 1932
Full image
Libby Holman, July 9, 1932.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons.
Date of Birth
May 23, 1904
Place of Birth
Cincinnati, Ohio
Date of Death
June 18, 1971

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Libby Holman." (Viewed on February 23, 2019) <>.


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