By Michelle R. Scott
As one of many first African American vocalists to be recorded, Bessie Smith is a renowned determine in American pop culture and African American background. Michelle R. Scott makes use of Smith's lifestyles as a lens to enquire wide concerns in heritage, 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 luck of girl blues artists like Bessie Smith are attached to the swift 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 was once born. This learn explores how the growth of the Southern railroads and the advance of iron foundries, metal generators, and sawmills created monstrous 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 throughout 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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Additional info for Blues Empress in Black Chattanooga: Bessie Smith and the Emerging Urban South
117 Chattanooga women such as Ann Alexander, Lavina Ford, and Amelia Thomas generally were confined to the occupations of domestic, cook, washerwoman, or teacher but were often able to open their homes to boarders for extra income. Many of these women worked for the city’s local hotels, particularly Read House (the former Crutchfield House of the antebellum era) and Stanton House. 118 Those individuals who either were free before the Civil War or began to establish businesses during the contraband period often acquired their own independent businesses after the war.
118 Those individuals who either were free before the Civil War or began to establish businesses during the contraband period often acquired their own independent businesses after the war. 119 Jordan Carter ran a grocery store on Market Street, and be yond the contr aband c amps 33 Henry Daugherty ran a shoe shop on Market and Sixth Streets. 121 These businessmen were part of a small but growing class of property-owning, financially successful entrepreneurs. Recreation and leisure activities were as essential in the postbellum black Chattanooga community as they had been in the antebellum and contraband periods.
20 McCline’s experiences were shared by many slaves in rural East Tennessee and the greater South. Although opportunities for fellowship were not plentiful, when enslaved laborers were able to gather together they fostered a communal culture that was centered around labor activities but also included an opportunity to momentarily escape from all the rigors of the workday. Workers met and socialized with people who would not generally be found on their home farm. 21 The communal labor experience was one of the few times that black laborers in rural Hamilton County were able to meet and share moments with others who understood the trials and tribulations of their existence as an enslaved people and as racial and cultural minorities.