The blues—as a palette of intense, often contradictory feelings; a range of social conditions heavily inflected by blackness and southernness; an expressive form encompassing literature as well as music; and a philosophical orientation towards experience—are a more complex cultural phenomenon than some realize. This essay unpacks the latter two concepts: blues expressiveness and the blues ethos. Blues expressiveness is constituted by a range of cultural practices, including the AAB stanza, call and response procedure, vocalizations, blues-idiomatic language, and signifying. The blues ethos, too, offers multiple strategies for surviving bad times by refusing to reify the down-ness of the present moment as an inescapable condition, sometimes with the help of harsh, redemptive laughter. In this essay, Adam Gussow draws on a range of lyric, literary, and folkloristic commentary by Langston Hughes, Cornell West, Bessie Smith, Howard Odum, Kalamu ya Salaam, W. C. Handy, Angela Y. Davis, Lonnie Johnson, and many others. The essay also takes an autobiographical turn as Gussow mines his own bandstand and classroom experience with Mississippi-born blues performers Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee and Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry to illustrate the blues ethos in action.
SouthDocs Film Exploring Mississippi State Flag Now Available to View Online The Southern Documentary Project has made available online their 2017 film Flag Flap Over Mississippi following screenings in Oxford, Jackson, and broadcast on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Flag Flap, by filmmaker Rex Jones, includes interviews with Mississippians who discuss the state’s continued use of a flag which… Read More >
SOUTHERN MUSIC SYMPOSIUM · FEBRUARY 26 CALL FOR PROPOSALS FOR UM STUDENTS We invite University of Mississippi students to submit papers or completed documentary work for public presentation and discussion at the February 26 Symposium. Subjects can concern how southern music has shaped or related to place, race, gender, class, locality, environment, globalization, consumerism, and/or politics.… Read More >
Apply to Our MFA Program in Documentary Expression The Center invites applications to our Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Expression program, which began in the fall of 2017. The MFA is a two-year (30-hour) graduate program that combines coursework in Southern Studies and interdisciplinary fields with advanced training in photography, film, and audio production. Coursework… Read More >
We hear that Donald Trump is planning to visit the opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson this weekend. I share the frustrations of people who worry that his visit could be both a distraction from and an insult to the people whose stories the museums are telling. If he does in fact visit the museums, I hope he’s there to learn.
New on Mississippi Stories, a lecture by Assistant Professor of Sociology and Southern Studies Dr. Brian Foster: “‘That’s for the White Folks’: Race, Culture, and (Un)Making Place in the Rural South.” Dr. Foster presented the lecture, based on his ethnographic work in rural Mississippi, on October 25, 2017 as part of the Center’s Brown Bag Lecture Series.
Assistant Professor of History and Southern Studies Jessie Wilkerson received an award at the recent meeting of the Southern Association for Women Historians (SAWH). Organized in 1970, the organization meets annually and has over 700 members. The SAWH strives to stimulate interest in the study of Southern and women’s history as well to advance the status of women historians.