Bessie Smith - Final Report


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Thank you to all Bessie Smith fans who contributed to the eBay BackWaterBlues book auction that raised $2,055 to provide a scholarship for a music student at Chattanooga's Howard High to attend the American Music Master series in September in Cleveland honoring Bessie Smith at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A final report follows.

Professor Sara Grimes http://www.backwaterblues.net/

-- March 15, 2001 -- Today BackWaterBlues in search of Bessie Smith and its accompanying website at http://www.backwaterblues.net/ became -- as planned -- history. Thank you to all who contributed. Last-minute e-mail challenges to the author's views are published at http://www.backwaterblues.net/Columbia.html

The website will remain on the internet until the end of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's American Music Masters Conference in September honoring Bessie Smith. As an archive, the website will continue to offer rich current and historical information about people and places important to the artist. Meanwhile, the book is available at a number of public institutions. See http://www.backwaterblues.net/Gifts.html

As of the announced March 15 deadline, the eBay auction March 1-8 of one copy of BackWaterBlues -- with high bid ($127.50), donations ($900) and matching Rock and Roll Hall of Fame grant ($1027.50) -- raised $2,055 to fund a scholarship for a music student at Chattanooga's Howard High to attend the American Music Masters Conference in Cleveland, Ohio in September honoring Bessie Smith. In keeping with its mission of community outreach, the Chattanooga African-American Museum/Bessie Smith Hall under its director, Ms. Vilma Fields, will select the scholarship winner. Ms. Fields -- like so many other prominent Chattanoogians -- is a graduate of Howard High.

Bessie Smith was not a Howard High graduate but received her early education in Chattanooga, graduating -- we believe -- from Newton Normal, a Presbyterian school where she appeared in school plays. She frequently visited her family in Chattanooga. In 1926 -- at the height of her recording career -- a writer for the Baltimore Afro-American reported the following on Bessie Smith:

“She is not 'upstage' in manner, nor has she forgotten her struggles before she became famous. She received me with true Southern hospitality and so pleasant was our chat that she asked me to come again, and talk to her. I certainly enjoyed our conversation and her approachability and kindly simplicity. Miss Smith says her greatest ambition now is to carry her marvelous voice into small towns and villages so that young people of our race may be inspired to use their talent and develop themselves."

Bessie Smith (1894-1937)

Thank you again, Sara Grimes sgrimes@journ.umass.edu

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