Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Degree Level





Jeannie Whayne

Committee Member

Gigantino, Jim

Second Committee Member

Murdock, Jeffrey


African American men, Black male studies, Blues music, European history


American Blues is known for playing a role in the foundation of the country’s music. The ingredient of the musical tradition has roots going back to West Africa and was brought to the United States through the of transatlantic slave trade. During the period of slavery, it formally developed with plantation work songs which later continued after emancipation with sharecropping until the early to mid-twentieth century. During the early twentieth century, W.C. Handy in Tutwiler, Mississippi, and musicians formally popularized Blues music were being recorded. The first Blues superstars were women such as Ida Cox, Bessie Smith, and Ma Rainey but after the Great Depression, African American men became the primary artists being recorded. The lyrical content became open to talking about relationship issues, gender issues, and social issues that an African American audience could relate to. White Americans were also listeners of this music and white musicians were inspired. This was the first time that African Americans were involved with the entertainment industry formally and were touring across the country. A handful of Blues artists had the opportunity to tour in Europe but gradually it became more common for African American musicians to travel to Europe. European audiences were also inspired by this music and decided to create their own Blues music. This work reviews the lives and music of Bessie Smith, Tampa Red, Willie Dixon, and Son Seals. These artists lived throughout different spans of the early twentieth century and have unique lived experiences. This work balances the lived gendered experiences of African Americans through Blues music. It primarily focuses on the African American male’s experience from the period of enslavement to the twentieth century regarding different problems that they experienced. Many of whom, African American women have historically experienced as well.