Feeling Blue

Race and gender have always been important as it relates to black women’s success. This ongoing conversation details the harsh experiences of black women and how their voices and bodies are implicated in the world of music. The genre of Blues, was used as a way to characterize the experiences of the black community. It allowed women to be in the forefront, to display their deep emotions. Women like Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald. Bessie Smith was the most popular and highest-paid singer of her day. Nicknamed the “Empress of the Blues,” Smith started out as a street performer, and signed with Columbia Phonograph Company (the parent company of Columbia Records) in 1923. She paved the way for owning the “black body,” all while lifting up the black community. In a world where black women were forced to fit this cookie cutter model, Smith used her art to speak on those grievances, touching on social issues like poverty, intra-racial conflict, female sexuality, and bisexuality. With passion in her voice, the oppression that she was facing made her a household name. Black women deserve a voice, and she helped them to get just that.