Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. L. Terry Oggel


Most research into blues music over the past thirty years has examined either how the blues contribute to or reflect African-American identity, or how blues lyrics may be used as windows into African-American culture, values, and attitudes. Scholars have generally relied on more conventional songs about male-female relationships in this research, largely ignoring the subset of topical blues songs that related information about current events. Given the widespread illiteracy among African Americans during the height of the blues' popularity, these topical songs are particularly compelling. To date, however, no one has coupled topical blues together with their consumers' educational attainment to consider if and how songs about current events served as a mode of education in the African-American community. By employing Houston Baker's theory of the blues matrix to examine topical blues songs, it becomes clear that functionally illiterate African Americans relied on topical blues as a spoken newspaper during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008