Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Odetta grew up in Los Angeles and was a music student at Los Angeles City College. Her first job as a folksinger was in San Francisco and in 1953 she appeared at the Blue Angel in New York where Harry Belafonte and Pete Seeger helped introduce her to larger audiences. Belafonte included her in a major television special in 1959 which made her name nationally known. She has been a featured performer at festivals all over the country, but especially at the Newport Folk Festivals, and in her own solo concerts at Carnegie Hall. Her albums have been best sellers ever since her first in 1954.