The invention and reinvention of Big Bill Broonzy reveals numerous pathways African American entertainers faced during the first half of the twentieth century. After Broonzy left the South for Chicago, his 30-year career as a pioneer in blues music would be shaped by his own ambitions and those held by others. Both consciously and unconsciously, Big Bill became a full participant in Chicago and America’s critically vital New Negro Renaissance. Along the way, his reinventions would help negotiate African American celebrity and modernity in a manner that would hasten the transformation of his ever-expanding black consciousness.
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