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Black Women in Blues

A survey of the foremothers of Blues Music in the United States of America. Gain insight into their contribution to the music of artists like Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, and SZA along with the performance of sexuality that many Black women experience and imple

Article Sources

“Bessie Smith.” 1894 - 1937, June 6, 2005.

“Black Women, Jazz, and Feminism,” n.d.

Braziel, Jana Evans. “‘Bye, Bye Baby’: Race, Bisexuality, and the Blues in the Music of Bessie Smith and Janis Joplin.” Popular Music and Society27, no. 1 (2004): 3–26.

Brundage, W. Fitzhugh. “Prove It on Me: New Negroes, Sex, and Popular Culture in the 1920s.” Journal of the History of Sexuality; Austin24, no. 1 (January 2015): 156–58.

D’Emilio, John. “Blues Women of the 1920s.” Windy City Times; Chicago, Ill.February 18, 2009, sec. CHICAGO GAY HISTORY.

Garabedian, Steven. “Blues Testimony and Black Agency.” Transformations; University Park17, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 98–106.

Guillory, Nichole. “Black Women and Music: More than the Blues.” NWSA Journal20, no. 3 (Fall 2008): 200–204.

Johnson, Maria V. “‘Jelly Jelly Jellyroll’: Lesbian Sexuality and Identity in Women’s Blues.” Women & Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture7 (January 1, 2003): 31–52.

Lewis, Nghana tamu. “In a Different Chord: Interpreting the Relations Among Black Female Sexuality, Agency, and the Blues.” African American Review37, no. 4 (Winter 2003): 599–609.

“Ma Rainey.” 1886 - 1939, June 6, 2005.

Reitz, Rosetta. “Noteworthy Women: Miss Bessie Smith; Empress of the Blues.” Hot Wire; Chicago, May 31, 1994.

Tribbett, Marcus Charles. “`Everybody Wants to Buy My Kitty’: Resistance and the Articulation of the Sexual Subject in The...” Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies29, no. 1 (April 1998): 42.

Tucker, Sherrie. “Where the Blues and the Truth Lay Hiding": Rememory of Jazz in Black Women’s Fiction.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies13, no. 2 (June 1992): 26–44.

Dissertation Resources

Barrow-Pryor, Erany. “Motherin’ the Blues: Linda Hopkins—The Continuing Legacy of the Blues Woman.” University Microfilms International (UMI), 2005.

Bohanon, Margaret Ann. “‘Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues’: African-American Women Blues Singers and Working Class Resistance.” University Microfilms International (UMI), 2001.

Bratcher, Melanie E. “I’m African When I’m Singing, I’m Black and Blue When I’m Not: An Aesthetic Analysis of Selected Songs by Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone.” University Microfilms International (UMI), 2005.

Bynoe, Linda Turner. “African-American Blues Women’s Contribution to Womanist Theory: An Ethnographic Educational Study,” 1998.

Dolan, Mark K. “Cathartic Uplift:  A Cultural History of Blues and Jazz in the Chicago ‘Defender’, 1920–1929.” Ph.D., University of South Carolina, 2003. 

Evans, Howell. “The Literature of the Blues and Black Cultural Studies.” Ph.D., University of Florida, 2004. 

Harris, Paisley Jane. “I’m as Good as Any Woman in Your Town: The Interconnections of Gender, Race, and Class in the Blues of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith.” M.A., University of Minnesota, 1994. 

Kasik, Mary E. “Performance and Sexuality during the Harlem Renaissance: Gladys Bentley and Ma Rainey.” M.A., San Diego State University, 2016. 

Keeler, Matthew. “Bessie Smith: An American Icon From Three Perspectives.” Mus.M., Bowling Green State University, 2005. 

LIEB, SANDRA ROBIN. “The Message of Ma Rainey’s Blues: A Biographical and Critical Study of America’s First Woman Blues Singer.” Ph.D., Stanford University, 1976. 

Mayhew, Kelly Shareen. “‘Nobody in Town Can Bake a Sweet Jellyroll like Mine’: Women’s Expressions/Performances of Sexuality in the Twenties and Early Thirties.” Ph.D., Bowling Green State University, 1997. 

McLoughlin, Shirley Wade. “A Pedagogy of the Blues: A Dissertation.” Ph.D., Miami University, 2006. 

Muir, Peter C. “Before ‘Crazy Blues’: Commercial Blues in America, 1850–1920.” Ph.D., City University of New York, 2004. 

Page, Yolanda Williams. “I Won’t Be Blue Always:  Music as  *past in August Wilson’s ‘Joe Turner’s Come and Gone’, ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’, ‘The Piano Lesson’ and ‘Fences.’” Ph.D., Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College, 2001. 

Perry, Michael Aaron. “Writing Blue:  Performing Spirituality, Freedom, and Repetition in  Blues Literature.” Ph.D., Arizona State University, 2008. 

Scott, Michelle Renee. “The Realm of a Blues Empress: Blues Culture and Bessie Smith in Black Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1880–1923.” University Microfilms International (UMI), 2002.

West, James Steven. “Bessie Smith: A Study of Her Influence on Selected Works of Langston Hughes, Edward Albee, Sherley Anne Williams, and James Baldwin.” Ph.D., The University of Southern Mississippi, 1995.