top of page

The "All About the Blues Series"

Updated: Jun 15

Black familytaking a breal under the sun
From Cottonfields to Skyscrappers


What is the Blues


   The English word "Blues" was first recorded during the 1500s. The word was used to describe an anxious or troubled state of mind. By the 1600s," the Blue Devils" became a common term for evil spirits that brought depression and despair. In the 1800s, in the U.S., people would claim to have a case of "the Blue Devils" to describe a mood of low spirits or being under emotional stress. During the Reconstruction Era* (1865-1877), blacks began to apply the term to folk music that spoke to the social realities in their lives.

Blues music emerged as folk music on the cotton plantations in the South. By the end of the Civil War, and after many decades of evolution in the bosom of urban ghettos in the North, the blues was a purely American art form.

Blues music sprang from an environment of grueling hard work and poverty. Following the Emancipation Proclamation, the cotton belt was densely populated with former slaves, and Blues music emerged as a popular form of folk singing.

  The Mississippi Delta, East Texas, and the Piedmont region in the U.S. were the key regions where the blues was born. Blues music evolved from the fusion of field hollers, work songs, and religious music, each contributing to the makeup of the blues. The field songs of the enslaved represented the sorrow in their lives. They were not happy-go-lucky.

Prison farm officials, railroad supervisors, and road gang leaders encouraged singing work songs to keep the men and women focused on their tasks. These bosses discovered that more work is completed when set to rhythmic timing.

 The religious songs include hymns, slave songs/church songs, and the Negro spirituals. While serving the same purpose today as during slavery, Sacred songs give hope for a better tomorrow- and a belief in a higher power.

We are going on a short journey back in time before singing work songs and field hollers. We are traveling back in time across the middle passages to Africa. We will travel to the northern part of the West African coastal region where stringed instruments were found, and we will discuss the African connection or the West African roots of American blues music.




bottom of page