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Angela Davis gives us a new, radically transforming interpretation of the lives and music of three of the greatest singers of the 20th century. She uses the biographies, careers, and performances of recorded songs by Bessie Smith, "Ma" Rainey, and Billie Holiday--the African-American women who dominated American popular music between 1910 and the 1940's--to explore the dynamics and politics of American popular culture and the defining relationship of African Americans and African American culture to American society in the 20th century. The author has cleared permissions to reprint the Rainey and Smith lyrics in an Appendix.
"I have always understood myself as a knowledgeable, enthusiastic listener, but Angela Davis's book is a complete revelation to me and a serious re-education."--Toni Morrison
"When ladies sang the blues, they also elaborated an aesthetics of resistance. By taking their lives and words so seriously, Angela Davis liberates the true voices of three of the most remarkable women in modern American history. This is a stunning contribution to our understanding of the dialectics of gender, race, and class."--Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz
"Blues Legacies and Black Feminism is an intellectual tour de force. It is fitting that its extraordinary author is writing about blues women who, she shows, in their time, were no less insurgent and feminist than she."--Paula Giddings, author of When and Where I Enter
I. I Used to Be Your Sweet Mama: Ideology, Sexuality and Domesticity
II. Blame It On the Blues: Bessie Smith, "Ma" Rainey and the Politics of Blues Protest
III. Mama's Got The Blues: Rivals, Girlfriends and Advisors
IV. Here Come My Train: Traveling Themes in Ma Rainey's Blues
V. Preaching the Blues: Spirituality and Self-Consciousness
VI. Up In Harlem Every Saturday Night: Blues and the Black Aesthetic
VII. When A Woman Loves A Man: Social Implications of Billie Holiday's Love Songs
VIII. Strange Fruit: Music and Social Consciousness