The Blues is more than a musical genre – it is also a kind of literature. In the quote below, writer and activist James Baldwin identifies the Blues as the songs that bear witness to a people’s unlikely survival. In the face of difficult circumstances, the Blues name the hardships of Black Americans who have lived through the specific experience of a people that have withstood systemic oppression and exclusions as well as the general experience of humanity.
In this lesson students will consider song lyrics as a literary form and discover a traditional poetic structure of the Blues. They will then create a “classroom juke joint” and experiment with expressing themselves by writing a Blues.