Spring 2005 • Vol. XXVII No. 2 NonfictionApril 1, 2005 |

Preaching the Blues: The Mississippi Delta of Muddy Waters

When Muddy Waters, born McKinley Morganfield, traveled north to Chicago in 1943, he carried with him a whole generation of blues music. The Muddy Waters whom folklorist Alan Lomax recorded at Stovall Plantation near Clarksdale in 1941-42 played and sang the blues of rural Mississippi in the 1930s. Waters' Delta blues reflected the stark beauty of the northern Mississippi landscape. Flat as far as the eye could see, farmed by black sharecroppers, the Mississippi Delta chained its African American labor to the land and produced the richest music in America. Like his musical mentors, Son House, Charlie Patton, and Robert Johnson, Waters belonged to a rich and expressive African American culture. Their music came from the plantation even as it provided a way out of the sharecroppers' fields, a relief from the system of "furnish" and "settle"—food, fertilizer, clothes, and a mule in exchange for a share of the crop—that enforced white economic and political control. The power of the

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