Have Blues Will Travel
On the evening of December 4, 2020, the National Blues Museum in St. Louis celebrated the opening of “Have Blues, Will Travel,” an exhibit curated by students in UMSL’s Museums, Heritage, and Public History graduate program. The exhibit chronicles the experience of African American blues performers who toured the country during the era of Jim Crow. For Black musicians who made their living by traveling, life on the road involved a series of challenges: where to buy a meal, where to find overnight lodging, and how to avoid the dangers associated with being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Blues musicians relied on guides like the Green Book to design safe travel itineraries and they depended on a network of clubs and dance halls, often owned by Black entrepreneurs, that catered to Black or mixed-race audiences. “Have Blues, Will Travel,” brings this difficult period of time to life through photographs, stories, and music.
The exhibit was researched and designed exclusively by UMSL students in Spring 2020, over the course of a single semester. While some of the research took students to libraries and archives, many important insights came from conversations with people who lived the history: blues performers and record producers. Originally scheduled to open in May, the exhibit was placed on hold when Covid-19 forced the temporary closure of the museum. The exhibit will remain on display through July 2021 at the National Blues Museum, 615 Washington Avenue.
View pictures of this project here.