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Blues Music History Images

Down at the Crossroads

One of only two existing photos of the legendary Delta bluesman, Robert Johnson, ca 1935.

The Missing Link

Elvis Presley recording at Sam Phillips's Sun Records studio, ca 1954.

Feel Like Going Home

From the Delta by way of Chicago, the great Muddy Waters.

Racial Violence

Public lynching of young blacks, ca 1930.

The Old New South

A sharecropper and his wife in Mississippi, 1937.

First Lady of Blues

Mamie Smith, the first black singer to record the blues and the first blues artist to record a major hit, is pictured on a record cover here with her band in 1920, the same year her "Crazy Blues" would be recorded.

Love and Theft

An early illustration of Jim Crow, the stereotypical minstrel show character created by T.D. Rice around 1830. Jim Crow was one of the recurring racist caricatures popular in minstrelsy and provided the name for the system of segregation that developed in the South in the 1890s.

Come Together

Skip James performs for the crowd at the Newport Folk Festival in the summer of 1964—thirty some years after he recorded for Paramount Records. The Newport festivals of the 1960s introduced thousands of new, mostly white fans to African-American music.

Freedom Summer

Two students registering a woman to vote in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer campaign of 1964.


The Rolling Stones, one of the original British blues rock bands, in 1964, the year of their first American tour.

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