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Beyond the CrossroadsThe Devil and the Blues Tradition$
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Adam Gussow

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469633664

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469633664.001.0001

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I’m Going to Marry the Devil’s Daughter

I’m Going to Marry the Devil’s Daughter

Blues Tricksters Signifying on Jim Crow

(p.107) 3 I’m Going to Marry the Devil’s Daughter
Beyond the Crossroads

Adam Gussow

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter explores the way in which the blues lyric tradition uses the devil as a figure for the southern white man and hell as a figure for the miseries of the Jim Crow South. The white slave master and slave patroller show up, in coded form, in the antebellum spirituals; this tradition was reconfigured after Emancipation to reflect the new realities of the sharecropper's and bluesman's world, one presided over by the white bossman, sheriff, and prison farm warden. Bluesmen acted the devil, one might say, in order to evade and supplant the (white) devil and live more freely in the Jim Crow South over which he presided. Big Bill Broonzy, Peetie Wheatstraw, Lightnin' Hopkins, Champion Jack Dupree, and others recorded songs in which they signified on this mean white devil; Wheatstraw and Broonzy imaged themselves as his son-in-law: the black man making love to the white devil's daughter.

Keywords:   blues, devil, white man, hell, spirituals, Jim Crow, Big Bill Broonzy, Peetie Wheatstraw, devil's daughter, bluesman

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