Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in History


Arch Dalrymple III Department of History

First Advisor

Ted Ownby

Second Advisor

Adam Gussow

Third Advisor

Charles R. Wilson


This dissertation connects and comments on the historiography of the black freedom struggle as well as studies of the blues and blues tourism. To blues studies, it recognizes the artists discovered by Worth Long as well as his field research and festival production in the 1970s. It moves away from the social constructions of authenticity and segregation of sound, and it emphasizes black agency. My dissertation also contributes to the historiography of the black freedom struggle by providing a much-needed examination of rural economic and community development in 1970s Mississippi. For studies of blues tourism, it announces a revisionist account of the development of blues tourism in Mississippi, tracing it back to the protests against the Bicentennial Celebration in 1976. This dissertation takes the long view to better understand the important efforts of organizers at Mississippi Action for Community Education (MACE), a Greenville-headquartered non-profit community action organization founded by several former SNCC leaders in 1967 to empower black communities and take action. MACE established an annual festival tradition that focused on cultural education and the preservation of the musical traditions of African Americans in the Delta. The Delta Blues Festival drew on the agricultural region’s harvest festival traditions and borrowed elements from earlier, black-organized music festivals, which celebrated the image of black progress and racial uplift. By organizing and staging celebrations, such as the Delta Cotton Maker’s Jubilee and the Delta Blues Festival, African American producers intended to not only fill a perceived cultural void, but also refute racist, stereotypical representations of blacks and replace them with positive images that inspired self-esteem and pride in the black communities in the Delta. MACE intended to regain control of the cultural and political identity of African Americans on stage at the festivals. Not merely black alternatives to white-dominated events, not purely recreational nor wholly radical in nature, they provided a forum for reshaping the image of the blues through black experience.

Available for download on Thursday, July 23, 2020

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