Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday (Paperback)

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Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday (Paperback)


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Staff Reviews

Three powerhouses of blues music are examined in this book: Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday. These women chose musical lyrics as a public way to communicate messages on politics, private life, and the Black female experience. Doing so was dangerous, though, so they had to express these messages and stories in coded language, thus eluding their white listeners. 

Angela Davis is brilliant as always, writing in a way that is informative, digestible, and entertaining.

This book would make a great gift for jazz fanatics, feminists, African American history buffs, or anyone who bows down to our lord and savior, Angela Davis.

- Clarisse

— From Clarisse

From one of this country's most important intellectuals comes a brilliant analysis of the blues tradition that examines the careers of three crucial black women blues singers through a feminist lens. Angela Davis provides the historical, social, and political contexts with which to reinterpret the performances and lyrics of Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday as powerful articulations of an alternative consciousness profoundly at odds with mainstream American culture.

The works of Rainey, Smith, and Holiday have been largely misunderstood by critics. Overlooked, Davis shows, has been the way their candor and bravado laid the groundwork for an aesthetic that allowed for the celebration of social, moral, and sexual values outside the constraints imposed by middle-class respectability. Through meticulous transcriptions of all the extant lyrics of Rainey and Smith—published here in their entirety for the first time—Davis demonstrates how the roots of the blues extend beyond a musical tradition to serve as a conciousness-raising vehicle for American social memory. A stunning, indispensable contribution to American history, as boldly insightful as the women Davis praises, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism is a triumph.
Angela Y. Davis is a political activist, scholar, author, and speaker. She is an outspoken advocate for the oppressed and exploited, writing on Black liberation, prison abolition, the intersections of race, gender, and class, and international solidarity with Palestine. She is the author of several books, including Women, Race, and Class and Are Prisons Obsolete? She is the subject of the acclaimed documentary Free Angela and All Political Prisoners and is distinguished professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Product Details ISBN: 9780679771265
ISBN-10: 0679771263
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: January 26th, 1999
Pages: 464
Language: English
Series: Vintage