Chuck Stewart’s photography provided by Fireball Entertainment Group, courtesy of Chuck Stewart Photographs of John Coltrane, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Daphne A. Brooks is a professor at Yale University. She is the author of Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850–1910 and Jeff Buckley’s Grace. She is at work on Subterranean Blues: Black Women Sound Modernity for Harvard University Press.
Think of these women, coming out of the South and up to Milwaukee, arriving finally in tiny, all-white Grafton by either streetcar or automobile and feeling their way in a studio for the first time. As they fought the forces of shell-shocked alienation, disorientation, and possibly stage fright, the musical conversations between these two gifted artists created other worlds for them to fleetingly inhabit. Their duet yielded a recorded history of blueswomen’s subversive interstitial lives forged outside of both the jail cell and the sphere of domestic abuse, conditions which hovered close to each of them.