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Teaching Guide: Exploring Women and the Blues

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, Women and the Blues, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. Blues music appeared on the music scene in the 1920s. Using the items in the set, discuss how African American women influenced and helped shape the blues movement across the United States. How did blues music travel?
  2. Using the items in the set and additional resources, explore the cultural, social, and economic influences on blues music. Did the blues influence female and male singers differently?
  3. Using items in this set, discuss the origins of the blues and how it developed as a musical form. How can the blues be understood in terms of time? How did the blues’ place of origin influence the development of the music?

Classroom activities

Blues music has a melancholy undertone; singers have been described as “having the blues.” Blues lyrics consist of three rhyming lines with the first line always repeated. Ask students to write their own three-line blues stanza, using items in the sets as models.

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