Blues as an important cultural work for African American history? by Sidnee Salter
In the 1920s, a new form of music derived from the style of folk music called blues emerged. Like the association of feeling with the color, Blues music is often though of as sad songs sang by African American peoples. However, Blues music is more than just sad songs by black people; it is a reflection and representation of the harsh conditions black people faced in America around this time. At this time in America, Jim Crow laws and other racist policies were set in place to set a hierarchal social order based on race and class. African American people were always seen as the ‘bottom of society’ due to the darkness of their skin and their lack of education. Thus, music became one of the only ways for African American people to express themselves without being ridiculed or harassed by their white counterparts. Thus, you will hear Blues songs talking about everything from oppression from the white man to being tired from all the work they were forced to do. The Blues genre continued on through the Great Depression of the 1930s even further explaining the poor conditions that most African Americans at the time were exposed to.
In other words, Blues music was more than just a sad story by African Americans. This genre of music was significant in documenting African American history over the time, since most couldn’t read or write at the time. This is why there are several different types of Blues: Chicago Blues, Delta Blues, Country Blues, The Twelve Bar Blues, Classical Female Blues, etc. The Jim Crow Laws prohibited African American people from going to school with their white counterparts and even receiving higher than elementary school education. Thus, Blues music was one of the only ways to document conditions and status of African American people. Because African American people could not read or write, Blues music includes improvisation and the excessive use of instruments like the guitar, harmonica, piano, bass guitar, electric guitar, and upright bass.