Bessie Smith, also known as "The Empress of the blues", was born on April 15. There is conflicting census information about the year of her birth. The 1900 census states Smith was born that year, but the 1910 census states she was born in 1894, which is the year used by her family. The daughter of a part-time laborer and preacher, Bessie had lost her father, mother and a brother by the time she was nine years old. Bessie turned to street performance in order to earn money for the remainder of her family. Bessie sang and danced while her brother played the guitar. She eventually became the biggest headliner for the Theater Owners Booking Association, the vaudville circuit for African American performers.
Pay tribute to the empress by checking out CDs and listening to her rich voice, reading about her tragic life, or watching her perfomances.