Graduation Term


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of History

Committee Chair

Toure F Reed


My thesis explores the impact of race on Chicago Blues musicians from 1985 to 2012, a time when musicians began publically challenging the control of their music by white promoters. While there are a few scholarly works that discuss race and blues, none of them are written by a Black Chicago Blues musician. This thesis fills that void and provides further insight into race and marginalization through the experience of musicians captured in oral histories. Chicago-style Blues music is an African American art form that since its inception has been controlled and commodified chiefly by whites, who are gatekeepers. I argue that gatekeepers mostly hire white blues artists as headliners for blues festivals, recipients of record label contracts, and winners of blues music awards. This thesis answers the central question: Do white gatekeepers predominantly hire, market, and give awards to white blues artists over Blacks because they are racist, or is it because it is more profitable to bolster white artists? Importantly, these actions are not mutually exclusive, meaning gatekeepers may hire white artists over Blacks because white overrepresentation among blues consumers may create market incentives for promoters to privilege white artists over Black musicians. In other words, the gatekeepers may respond to white consumers' racist preference for white blues artists.


Page Count