“Make My Getaway”

Adah Cussow

in Seems Like Murder Here

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780226310978
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226311005 | DOI:
“Make My Getaway”

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)


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This chapter explores the links between southern violence and blues' emergence during the 1890s from a slightly different perspective, concentrating on William Christopher Handy. For Handy, blues song offered an answer to the paradox proposed to the turn-of-the-century black southern imagination by the coexistence of seemingly unlimited geographical mobility and entrepreneurial freedom and increasingly virulent white racist violence. Handy's career was shadowed by lack of originality and immoderate profit. Father of the Blues was his attempt to act as a central clearing house for tales of blues grief. Mississippi had not previously played any role in Handy's imaginative life. Beale Street, the scene of Handy's brief but epochal flowering as a blues songwriter, was also a place he eventually fled in fear and disgust. Handy would also revisit Memphis a number of times but he would never again make the city his home.

Keywords: southern violence; blues song; William Christopher Handy; Father of the Blues; entrepreneurial freedom; white racist violence; Beale Street; Mississippi; Memphis

Chapter.  25096 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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