By Michelle R. Scott
As one of many first African American vocalists to be recorded, Bessie Smith is a well-liked determine in American pop culture and African American historical past. Michelle R. Scott makes use of Smith's lifestyles as a lens to enquire large matters in background, together with industrialization, Southern rural to city migration, black group 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 attached to the fast migration and industrialization within the past due 19th and early 20th centuries, Scott focuses her research on Chattanooga, Tennessee, the massive commercial and transportation heart the place Smith used to be born. This examine explores how the growth of the Southern railroads and the advance of iron foundries, metal turbines, and sawmills created great 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 tune of black Chattanooga through the first decade of the 20 th century, and culminates by means of delving into Smith's early years at the vaudeville circuit.
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Extra info for Blues Empress in Black Chattanooga: Bessie Smith and the Emerging Urban South
After a series of significant battles in 1863, the Confederate forces could no longer hold off the Union army. Led by Gen. William S. 48 The city soon became a haven for Union soldiers, camp followers, white refugees, and escaped and abandoned slaves. ”49 Nearly four thousand people made the camp their temporary home within a year of Union occupation. 50 By the winter of 1863, Chattanooga began to be transformed completely by the ravages of the Civil War. In his journal, a prominent white citizen, Rev.
One woman specially under the influence of the excitement went across he church in a quick succession of leaps. . I was astonished that such proceedings were countenanced in even a Cumberland church. One of the women servants at this hotel, I understand, kept up her shouting after she returned from the meeting the entire night and was not quieted until the next day at nine o’clock. . . and offered up a well-composed prayer in very good language. . Beneath his distinct utterance I could hear a deep bass tone and a really musical treble, interrupted by an occasional shout 20 blues empress in bl ack chat tanooga of “Amen” and a keen shriek.
How roads was full of folks walking and walking along when the Negroes were freed. Didn’t know where they was going. Just going to see about something else somewhere else. ’ ”98 Many of the newly freed blacks who “didn’t know” where they were going found their way to Chattanooga’s Market or East Ninth Streets, centers of the fledgling black community. The Civil War had brought hundreds of African Americans to Hamilton County. The new industries that grew around Civil War fortifications encouraged many of these newcomers to remain and more freedpersons to join them.