Traveling Blues Analysis

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Blues music was created by African Americans in the deep South during the 19th century. One of the main characteristics of blues music that separates the blues from other musical genres is that blues themes are more than often based on personal adversity. One popular blues theme is traveling. When the theme of traveling comes to mind, adversity may not be the first thing one thinks of; however, traveling was historically used as a tool to oppress African Americans in the United States. During the years of slavery, it was common practice to deny African Americans the right to travel or to force African Americans to travel between unfamiliar plantations. Gertrude “Ma” Rainey’s well-known songs, “Traveling Blues” and “Lost Wandering Blues” both…show more content…
Gertrude “Ma” Rainey’s song, “Traveling Blues”, truly exemplifies how traveling became an expression of independence for the African American female. Over the course of this song, Rainey shares the story of a woman who takes it upon herself to leave her man back home to travel, but is not sure where she is headed: “The train’s at the station, I heard the whistle blow/ I done bought my ticket and I don’t know where I’ll go” (ll.2-3). The female character in Rainey’s song decision to leave her man back home asserts the woman’s independence that is associated with traveling due to the fact that she is no longer relying on her man to tell her where she is supposed to go or what she is…show more content…
This piece demonstrates how traveling was used as a personal discovery tool for the African American female. Through this song, Rainey tells the story of a woman who goes on a journey to find her man: “ I’m leavin’ this mornin’ with my clothes in my hand/ Lord, I’m leaving this mornin’ with my clothes in my hand/ I won’t stop movin’ till I find my man” (ll.1-3). When the woman starts her journey, it is clear that she is not sure of any obstacles that she will encounter along the way, but she is willing to keep moving forward until she finds her man. This truly illustrates the woman’s determination to use traveling as a pathway for personal discovery. The woman is not sure if she will find her man, but she knows that she will have the freedom to explore her own wants along the journey. Not only does this song express personal discovery along the journey, it communicates how preparing for traveling is important for the woman’s personal discovery based on what she decides to travel with: “I’m standin’ here wonderin’ will a matchbox hold my clothes/ Lord, I’m standin’ here wonderin’ will a matchbox hold my clothes/ I got a trunk too big to be botherin’ with on the road” (ll.6-9). These lines suggest that the most important part of the journey may not be finding her man, but instead the woman finding her true self. Choosing to travel without luggage symbolizes the
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