Aretha Franklin and Women in Soul Music

The first time that I heard an Aretha Franklin record was as a child in the car with my mother on the way to school. It was from her album “So Damn Happy”, and it was a record about how beautiful the world was, despite her missing a cherished lover. At the time, my father […]

Negro Spirituals as a Form of Resistance

  What are Negro Spirituals?   Negro Spirituals were the religious music of African Americans during slavery. They were based off of Hymns, which are metrical compositions typically comprised of eight bars of rhythmic couplets. These hymns are loosely based on biblical scriptures. Negro spirituals emerged after The Great Awakening which emerged in the 1740s. […]

Betty Wright

  Who is Betty Wright?   Artist History   Betty Wright was born Bessie Regina Norris on December 21, 1953 in Miami, Florida. She was the youngest of seven children of Rosa Braddy-Wright and McArthur Norris. Wright’s career began when she was two years old as a member of Echoes of Joy gospel group along […]

Mahalia Jackson and Black Women in Gospel

Mahalia Jackson was born Mahala Jackson on October 26, 1911. She was an American gospel singer with a career that spanned 40 years. Some of her inspiration was derived from Blues artist Bessie Smith, whom rose to fame in the Jazz era. Despite high racial segregation, Jackson achieved a high amount of commercial success which was evidenced […]

Bessie Smith and Female Identity in the Blues What are “The Blues”?   The Blues originated in the Deep South after the American Civil War. W.C Handy, who is affectionately called the father of the Blues, met a vagrant at a railroad in Mississippi around 1903 and heard him playing music on a banjo-like instrument. This sound inspired the sound that is […]

Billie Holiday and Women’s Activism in Jazz Music

What is Jazz music?   Jazz was developed from ragtime and blues and is characterized by improvisation, the use of original timbres, and syncopated rhythms. Jazz emerged in the early 20th century and contains several sub-categories. These include traditional jazz, swing, bebop, cool jazz, and hard bop, to name a few.         […]

Jubilee Quartets and the Legacy of HBCUs

What are Jubilee Quartets?   Jubilee Quartets were musical groups comprised of African Americans that sang religious music. As the name implies, the quartets were comprised of groups of four members. Historically, there were three main periods including the Jubilee period from 1880-1929, the transitional period from 1930-1945, and the gospel period from 1946-1969. The […]

Nina Simone and Black female Identity in Folk Music

  Who is Nina Simone? Nina Simone was born February 21, 1933 as Eunice Kathleen Waymon. Her stage name was inspired by a boyfriend named Chico who nicknamed her nina, while Simone is derived from French actress Simone Signoret. Her stage name was adopted to avoid detection from friends and family while she performed at […]