Everybody Knows You When You’re Down And Out

Courtesy of the Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundation
By  

“The racially segregationist distribution strategy of the recording industry implicitly instructed white ears to feel revolted by the blues and, moreover, to assume that this sense of revulsion was instinctive…” Angela Davis

There is a remarkable story tucked halfway through Bessie, Chris Albertson’s biography of the blues singer Bessie Smith, in which Smith approaches a circle of robed North Carolina Klansmen, places one hand on her hip, and begins shaking the other in the air. She hollers obscenities at the men—who were disassembling the tent her touring company had erected earlier that night, in a particularly childish bit of public dissension—until “they finally turned and disappeared quietly into the darkness.” This is the sort of tale that stinks of apocrypha (in 1927, lone black women did not escape such confrontations alive), but is nonetheless a useful encapsulation of Smith’s particular prowess: shouting darkness into darkness…

Continue reading 

 

Something to say? Say it here . . .

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s