The purpose of this report was for me to research and explore the connection between African American women and music. Since prior to the slave decades, music has been an integral part of African American society, and served as a form of social, economic, and emotional support in African American communities in the past and present. This paper will cover three different types of secular music that emerged during the slave days, through the civil war, reconstruction, and depression periods. They are blues, jazz, and gospel music. Each of these forms of music are still in existence today. In addition to exploring the history of each of these genres of music, this report will identify three African American female music legends, Bessie Smith, Emma Barrett, and Mahalia Jackson. .
Blues emerged in the period between the end of the civil war, and the beginning of the 20th century. Originating in the fields of the rural south, it became popular after the emancipation of the slaves. In this form of music, the singer and composer is one in the same, a characteristic not evident in the spiritual songs of the slave communities. Spirituals were somewhat of a passage way for blues. Blues followed blacks to urban societies as spirituals followed the slaves onto the plantations. The differences between these types of music were that spirituals were collective, whereas an individual sang blues. Blues attributed to the evolution of black society toward individualism after the collective society of slavery. Blues became know as the music of the black working class. It was a way for African Americans to express the modern problems of economics, social errors, and poverty and power struggles they faced after they became free. African Americans were still living in unjust societies, where jobs were hard to find. They began to migrate north, but the case remained the same. They used music for economic gain in nightclubs, corner halls, publishing, and recording.