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Blues Legacies and Black Feminism

Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday

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Paperback published by Vintage (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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About This Book
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.
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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.
Product Details
Paperback (464 pages)
Published: January 26, 1999
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Vintage
ISBN: 9780679771265
Other books byAngela Y. Davis
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    The Meaning of Freedom
    And Other Difficult Dialogues
    "Davis' arguments for justice are formidable. . . . The power of her historical insights and the sweetness of her dream cannot be denied."—The New York Times What is the meaning of freedom? Angela Y. Davis' life and work have been dedicated to examining this fundamental question and to ending all forms of oppression that deny people their political, cultural, and sexual freedom. In this collection of twelve searing, previously unpublished speeches, Davis confronts the interconnected issues of power, race, gender, class, incarceration, conservatism, and the ongoing need for social change in the United States. With her characteristic brilliance, historical insight, and penetrating analysis, Davis addresses examples of institutional injustice and explores the radical notion of freedom as a collective striving for real democracy—not a thing granted by the state, law, proclamation, or policy, but a participatory social process, rooted in difficult dialogues, that demands new ways of thinking and being. "It is not too much," writes Robin D.G. Kelly in the introduction, "to call her one of the world's leading philosophers of freedom." The Meaning of Freedom articulates a bold vision of the society we need to build and the path to get there. This is her only book of speeches and her first full-length book since Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003). Angela Y. Davis is professor emerita at the University of California and author of eight books. She is a much sought after public speaker and an internationally known advocate for social justice. Robin D.G. Kelley is the author of many books and a professor at the University of Southern California.

    Subversive Southerner

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    Anne McCarty Braden (1924--2006) rejected her segregationist, privileged past to become one of the civil rights movement's staunchest white allies. In 1954 she was charged with sedition by McCarthy-style politicians who played on fears of communism to preserve southern segregation. Though Braden remained controversial -- even within the civil rights movement -- in 1963 she became one of only five white southerners whose contributions to the movement were commended by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his famed "Letter from Birmingham Jail." Braden's activism ultimately spanned nearly six decades, making her one of the most enduring white voices against racism in modern U.S. history. Subversive Southerner is more than a riveting biography of an extraordinary southern white woman; it is also a social history of how racism, sexism, and anticommunism intertwined in the twentieth-century South as ripples from the Cold War divided the emerging civil rights movement.

    Global Critical Race Feminism

    Global Critical Race Feminism
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    Global Critical Race Feminismis the first anthology to focus explicitly on the legal rights of women of coloraround the world. Containing nearly thirty essays, the book addresses such topical themes as responses to white feminism; the flashpoint issue of female genital mutilation; the intersections of international law with U.S. law; "Third World" women in the "First World;" violence against women; and the global workplace. Broadly representative, the reader addresses the role and status-legal and otherwise-of women in such countries as Cuba, New Zealand, France, Serbia, Nicaragua, Colombia, South Africa, Japan, China, Australia, Ghana, and many others. Authors include: Aziza al-Hibri, Penelope Andrews, Taimie Bryant, Devon Carbado, Mai Chen, Brenda Cossman, Lisa Crooms, Mary Dudziak, Isabelle Gunning, Anna Han, Berta Hernández, Laura Ho, Sharon Hom, Rosemary King, Kiyoko Knapp, Hope Lewis, Martha Morgan, Zorica Mrsevic, Vasuki Nesiah, Leslye Obiora, Gaby Oré-Aguilar, Catherine Powell, Jenny Rivera, Celina Romany, Judy Scales-Trent, Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, J. Clay Smith, and Leti Volpp.

    Are Prisons Obsolete?

    Are Prisons Obsolete?
    With her characteristic brilliance, grace and radical audacity, Angela Y. Davis has put the case for the latest abolition movement in American life: the abolition of the prison. As she quite correctly notes, American life is replete with abolition movements, and when they were engaged in these struggles, their chances of success seemed almost unthinkable. For generations of Americans, the abolition of slavery was sheerest illusion. Similarly,the entrenched system of racial segregation seemed to last forever, and generations lived in the midst of the practice, with few predicting its passage from custom. The brutal, exploitative (dare one say lucrative?) convict-lease system that succeeded formal slavery reaped millions to southern jurisdictions (and untold miseries for tens of thousands of men, and women). Few predicted its passing from the American penal landscape. Davis expertly argues how social movements transformed these social, political and cultural institutions, and made such practices untenable. In Are Prisons Obsolete?, Professor Davis seeks to illustrate that the time for the prison is approaching an end. She argues forthrightly for "decarceration", and argues for the transformation of the society as a whole.

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