Blues Empress in Black Chattanooga: Bessie Smith and the by Michelle R. Scott

By Michelle R. Scott

As one of many first African American vocalists to be recorded, Bessie Smith is a sought after determine in American pop culture and African American background. Michelle R. Scott makes use of Smith's lifestyles as a lens to enquire large matters in historical past, together with industrialization, Southern rural to city migration, black neighborhood improvement within the post-emancipation period, and black working-class gender conventions.

Arguing that the increase of blues tradition and the good fortune of lady blues artists like Bessie Smith are hooked up to the quick migration and industrialization within the past due 19th and early 20th centuries, Scott focuses her research on Chattanooga, Tennessee, the big business and transportation heart the place Smith was once born. This examine explores how the growth of the Southern railroads and the improvement of iron foundries, metal generators, and sawmills created large employment possibilities within the postbellum period. Chronicling the expansion and improvement of the African American Chattanooga neighborhood, Scott examines the Smith family's migration to Chattanooga and the preferred song of black Chattanooga throughout the first decade of the 20th century, and culminates by way of delving into Smith's early years at the vaudeville circuit.

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Additional info for Blues Empress in Black Chattanooga: Bessie Smith and the Emerging Urban South

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Mr. 32 18 blues empress in bl ack chat tanooga At times, the limited autonomy granted to town slaves permitted them the opportunity to keep and save a portion of their wages and subsequently buy their freedom. Although self-emancipation was not common, two noted black Chattanooga residents, William Lewis and E. 33 These selfemancipated slaves were one primary component of the free black community in Chattanooga. ”35 Hence, although small, there was a distinct class of “free persons of color” in antebellum Chattanooga.

127 All genres of black recreational life 34 blues empress in bl ack chat tanooga illustrate how multifaceted the Chattanooga community had become after the Civil War: the lodge meeting was as important a site for the development of black culture as the church or the workplace. As the 1880s approached, the black Chattanooga community had effectively made the transition from rural and urban slavery to urban quasi-freedom. ” The black populace had expanded its business, religious, educational, and recreational institutions throughout the immediate post–Civil War years and built on the new opportunities for an independent and fairly autonomous community that the contraband period had afforded.

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