The Folk Music Experience: Blues Legacies and Black Feminism



Course Number




Course Description

This course combines playing folk music with the study of the contexts in which folk music has evolved. For this quarter, we will study the expression of black feminism in the music of the early 20th century blues/jazz singers Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday. Students will be expected to participate in discussions on readings assigned during the first five weeks of the course. Each student will be asked to introduce one song to the class that is relevant to the protest music genre and enriches our knowledge of folk music or the context within which folk music has been written and performed. Students will write a short research paper that forms the basis for their presentation on the song and its context. Students will also be responsible for learning and practicing the songs that are presented to the class, including practice in small groups. Students are encouraged to gain practice at playing one or more folk music instruments during the course, and are invited to join the course even if they are beginners at playing an instrument or if they prefer to just sing.



Materials Fee


Required Texts

Angela Davis: Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday


S/NX grading; narrative evaluation

Regular attendance and participation in our weekly sing, informed participation in class discussions, one short research paper and song presentation, and practicing music in a small group.



Fall 2023

Course Instructor(s)

Mark Miyake
John Bower

Course Subject