28 Faces of Black Women – Bessie Smith

February marks the celebration of Black History month. As a sorority who believe in “Excellence Through Unity”, it is only fitting that we take the time to present some of the notable women in African-American History.

During the month of February  we will present a short biography on famous, inspiring, and world-changing African-American women throughout history.

Today, we honor the life of one of the first African-American Female Recording Artist – Bessie Smith.


Bessie Smith, also known as The Empress of Blues,  was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. Smith begun to form her own act in the year 1913 at the “81” Theater in Atlanta. In the 1920’s Smith established a great base for herself as a great singer in the South and Eastern Seaboard.

The 20’s also brought the hunger of blues music, thus leaving many recording companies on a search for Blues singers. Bessie Smith, with her strong voice, signed to Columbia Records in 1923, and was released under the company’s “race” record series; The album was called Smith’s Cemetery Blues. Her album sparked buzz in both communities, touring on a heavy theater/concert schedule. After many shows and the great sales of her CD, Smith became the highest-paid black entertainer of her time.

Smith made 160 recordings for Columbia, often accompanied by the finest musicians of the day, most notably Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Fletcher Henderson, James P. Johnson, Joe Smith, and Charlie Green.