This Day in Black History: April 26, 1886

Ma Rainey, "Mother of the Blues," was born in Georgia.

Posted: 04/26/2013 07:00 AM EDT

(Photo: WikiCommons)

On April 26, 1886, blues songstress Ma Rainey was born in Columbus, Georgia. Known as "Mother of the Blues," Rainey, born Gertrude Pridgett, is credited as the first popular entertainer to incorporate the blues style into her performances. 

She married comedian William "Pa" Rainey in 1904 and the couple toured together throughout the South. Her travels exposed her to the burgeoning blues scene and, by 1905, she was thrilling audiences with the soulful style. Between 1923 to 1928, she made over 100 recordings, including one of her best known hits, “Bo-Weavil Blues" (1923), and worked with a number of luminaries, including Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong. Her music is also noted as  the muse for Harlem Renaissance poets such as Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown.

At 53, she passed away from a heart attack in 1939. Rainey was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

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