It is my contention that the first Blues singers, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Alberta Hunter, Josephine Baker, Mamie Smith and others were also the first Civil Rights workers who birthed the idea of freedom that others like Martin Luther King, Jr. carried the banner for. These women struggled through slavery, Jim Crow, minstrelsy, the Chittlin' Circuit, T.O.B.A. and vaudeville to tell the citizens of this country that they were, indeed, FREE. They were the FREEDOM SOUNDERS. Their voices and talent told America to move over, step aside and just plain accept the fact that WE ARE FREE! if not physically, in our hearts and minds.

It is undeniable that the music of Africans in America grew out of the field hollers and spirituals song on a daily basis in the southern states where slavery was an institution. Then, came the Blues that signified discontent with the wish to find solace only in heaven. Blues women and men complained through the music and sounded to the world their desire for freedom on Eath. Jazz, the child of the Blues became the unmasked rhetoric of those musicians, male and female that traveled around the country and the world, bringing a new brand of music that was stolen from them, commercialized by the Euro-American music moguls and capitalized upon to the detriment of most of its innovators.


In my book, A History of African-American Jazz and Blues, I discuss this phenomenon in three essays:

  1. The Sign of The Blues
  2. Jazz: The Unmasked Rhetoric
  3. The Cultural Politics of Commercial Jazz

Read the abstracts of these essays
Purchase the book
More of Joan's books

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Tags: blues, book, civil, field, freedom, history, hollers, jazz, music, rights, More…slavery, spirituals, women

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