Blues: A Medium to Display Black Women's Experiences

Blues music overtook black culture and was a method of displaying our current circumstances as a community. It reflected the sadness and difficult times that we experienced. Blues music finally was a genre that allowed for women to be prevalent. Bessie Smith paved the way for black women and opened doors through music. Smith took ownership of her body and put herself on display, this was important in strengthening the black community and empowering black women everywhere. During the time, it was uncommon for black women to be expressive, loud, and proud about their feminism and daily life experiences through the lens of a black woman – Smith sang about it in her many songs that swept across the United States. Bessie Smith was a mogul and was recognized as such by the black community. Smith paved the way and was an influential figure who provided the framework for many artists to come like, Mahalia Jackson and Norah Jones. Smith’s story and legacy is the perfect example of why representation matters and how art forms that allow for true expression, like blues, are important.

Smith is known for the deep emotion and soul in her voice. I believe the oppression that she faced as a black woman in America gave her a multitude of topics and emotions behind the words that she sang, which ultimately contributed to her great success. At the time, women were just beginning to find their voice in activism. Smith displayed the feelings and struggles that black women in America faced at the time in regard to areas that ranged from oppressive systems to love in the black community. She also took ownership of her body which allowed black women everywhere to relate and feel represented.

Because blues music was created as an expression of emotions, especially in relation to the sadness that overtook the black community at the time, it was the perfect way for ambitious artists to step into the role of activists. Blues music was Smith’s chosen medium to display and amplify the voice of black women in America.   

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Kendall Heath

Kendall Heath

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