The world continues to mourn the loss of a legendary creative genius, but what many people may not realize is that Prince was also a big social activist. 


Jennifer Hudson Leads ‘The Color Purple’ Cast in Tribute to Prince


Prince paved the way for artists to fight back against the music industry and streaming services. In 1993, Prince changed his name to a symbol and wrote “slave” across his cheek in protest against Warner Bros. over the right to control his music. Prince also signed with TIDAL over other streaming services because it paid more and allowed him to have control over his music and persona. Long before Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple, Prince was looking for ways to distribute his music online with as much control as possible.


911 Transcript Reveals Frantic Call For Help After Prince Was Found Unresponsive


The artist was active in the Black Lives Matter movement, but kept his involvement lowkey. During the Grammys he famously proclaimed that “like books and black lives, albums still matter.” Last year, in May, Prince released the song “Baltimore” in tribute to Freddie Gray and other African-Americans who’d been slain by police. He also developed the #YesWeCode initiative, a program in response to the death of Trayvon Martin, to prepare low income young adults for a career in writing computer code. And, according to Al Sharpton, he privately donated funds to Trayvon’s family. 


Prince also often covered politics in his music. “Dear Mr. Man,” a song about systemic injustice features Cornel West; “Ronnie Talk To Russia” is about the US fixing its relationship with the U.S.S.R.; and, the 2009 song “Ol’ Skool Company” talks about Wall Street’s role in the recession and its subsequent bailout. 


Spike Lee Threw a Block Party in Honor of Prince


We didn’t just lose one of music’s greatest innovators, we also lost a man who fiercely believed in justice.


WANT MORE FROM ESSENCE? Subscribe to our daily newsletter for the latest in hair, beauty, style and celebrity news.