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

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

by Michelle R. Scott
     
 

As one of the first African American vocalists to be recorded, Bessie Smith is a prominent figure in American popular culture and African American history. Michelle R. Scott uses Smith's life as a lens to investigate broad issues in history, including industrialization, Southern rural to urban migration, black community development in the post-emancipation era, and… See more details below

Overview

As one of the first African American vocalists to be recorded, Bessie Smith is a prominent figure in American popular culture and African American history. Michelle R. Scott uses Smith's life as a lens to investigate broad issues in history, including industrialization, Southern rural to urban migration, black community development in the post-emancipation era, and black working-class gender conventions.

Arguing that the rise of blues culture and the success of female blues artists like Bessie Smith are connected to the rapid migration and industrialization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Scott focuses her analysis on Chattanooga, Tennessee, the large industrial and transportation center where Smith was born. This study explores how the expansion of the Southern railroads and the development of iron foundries, steel mills, and sawmills created vast employment opportunities in the postbellum era. Chronicling the growth and development of the African American Chattanooga community, Scott examines the Smith family's migration to Chattanooga and the popular music of black Chattanooga during the first decade of the twentieth century, and culminates by delving into Smith's early years on the vaudeville circuit.

About the Author:
Michelle R. Scott is an assistant professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780252033384
Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
Publication date:
08/04/2008
Pages:
216
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

Introduction Uncovering the Life of a Blues Woman 1

1 Beyond the Contraband Camps: Black Chattanooga from the Civil War to 1880 11

2 "The Freest Town on the Map": Black Migration to New South Chattanooga 35

3 The Empress's Playground: Bessie Smith and Black Childhood in the Urban South 55

4 Life on "Big Ninth" Street: The Emerging Blues Culture in Chattanooga 81

5 An Empress in Vaudeville: Bessie Smith on the Theater Circuit 113

Epilogue: A Blues Woman's Legacy 135

Notes 139

Bibliography 173

Index 193

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