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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

History

First Advisor

John J. Bukowczyk

Abstract

ABSTRACT

DETROIT BLUES WOMEN

by

Michael Duggan Murphy

August 2011

Advisor: Dr. John J. Bukowczyk

Major: History

Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

"Detroit Blues Women" explores how African American "women's blues" survived the twentieth century relatively unscripted by the image-makers of the male-dominated music industry. In the 1920s, African American blues queens laid out a foundation for assertive and rebellious women's blues that the many musical heirs who succeeded them in the twentieth century and into the first decade of the twenty first century sustained, preserved and built upon. The dissertation argues that women's blues, which encouraged women to liberate themselves and seek sexual, social and political freedom, survived into the twenty-first century despite facing the formidable obstacles of racism, capitalism and patriarchy.

The story of African American women's blues in the twentieth century relates to two different types of migration, the first being the very physical and concrete Great Migration of 1910 to 1930 that brought blues music and many southern African Americans north. The second migration was the more abstract, aesthetic, transcendent journey that took blues women, and their blues across barriers of race, class and gender. Both of these migrations were crucial to the ongoing formation of women's blues and to the development of the women who sing the blues.