Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Darren Grem

Relational Format



This thesis uses a specific event, B.B. King's performance in 1970 and subsequent album from Chicago's Cook County Jail, to study the intersections of race, music, and American culture. First, I trace the events leading up to the performance and album and contextualize both within King's career and the history of race relations in the South and in Chicago. Second, I detail the history of Cook County Jail and King's subsequent prison activism. All in all, this thesis argues that the sense of racial bondage shared between the blues, King, and the inmates at Cook County Jail, is the primary reason Live in Cook County Jail became the most successful prison blues ever recorded. This thesis also concludes that, while King's performance occurred nearly a half a century ago, what it had to say about racial inequality in correctional facilities remains relevant.

Included in

History Commons



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