Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Bessie Smith, "Empress of the Blues," was part of the soundtrack of the Harlem Renaissance. The popularity of Smith's music, often quite sexual in nature, calls attention to some of the social freedoms that the culture allowed. During the 1930s Smith was based in New York City and performed at the Cotton Club, the Apollo, and the Harlem Opera House. She frequently toured the country sometimes under the name "Bessie Smith and Her Harlem Frolics" or the "Hot From Harlem" revue thus spreading the idea of Harlem as a vibrant and loose community to a wider audience.