The handout focused upon the misconceptions and the truths of women in the Blues. The second part of the handout based upon Billie Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit,” explored the meaning behind the song as well as its social implications. The blues was used as a way to deal with reality and in a way acknowledge it’s existence Davis mentions in the chapter that blues served as a way to make known which would have otherwise not had a voice, “they begin to articulate a consciousness that takes into account social conditions of class exploitation, racism and male dominance as seen through the lenses of complex emotional responses of black female subjects.”(Pg 119)
Throughout the first handout Davis is responding to other authors criticisms of blues singers, and the idea that blues is music of apathy. When you hear the blues there is not a feeling of apathy left within you, as much as there is a feeling of sadness. Davis describes them as addressing, “seemingly insurmountable but obscure social forces that have created the overall contest of misery and oppression.”(Pg 116) The feeling or portrayal of apathy that Paul Oliver expresses is because none of the blues songs actually say “Action.” Davis comes back to this by saying that they were not really in a position to be saying things like take action. I mean Billie Holiday said she remembered not even being able to eat at restaurants in the south when she performed with one of her bands.
Davis also points out that by just describing a situation, they were calling attention to the harshness of life in the poor community which would later help the flame of the uprising. Davis commented directly on the nature of these songs, “requires absolute honesty in the portrayal of black life.......As a rule, these songs do not criticize the institution, but simply treat it as an existing reality.” (Pg 107)
It was strange reading this quote because if we were to read any text describing the religious spirituals at the time, all of them were about hope, and escaping the hardships on earth. The blues was about recognizing the harshness, and embracing and mourning their way of life. I use the word mourn because of the feeling it evokes, like a helpless cry, but none-the-less a cry. Humans need this expression, even if it isn’t supposed to get at something directly, there still needs to be expression. Their worth is in the sincere human suffering that is catalogued in these songs. Davis said they do not criticize a poor mans way of life, but simply relay it.
It is this recognition of the living conditions that these people endured that allowed some identification from all the poor community in general. In the Strange Fruit chapter they mention how the depression had an effect on race relations, “circles of people who had been sensitized by both the transracial economic and social tragedies of the Great Depression and by the multiracial mass movements seeking to redress the grievances of the blacks and whites alike.” She goes on to talk about the movement among the white community which began to trickle into mainstream mentality. Because of the depression there was a recognition that the power was not just in the hands of white people, but a very few white people. This distinction left for identifications with class instead of race.