The Color Purple

Performing Despite Prejudice: Female Musicians in the Early 1900s and in The Color Purple 10th Grade

During the early 1900s, an emergence of new forms of music such as blues and jazz brought a host of new musicians, many of them female. These female performers, even when wildly successful, were constantly subjected to unfair scrutiny and judgement due to their sex, and at times also due to their race. Examples of the trials and tribulations that female musicians during this time had to face can be seen through the characters of Shug and Mary Agnes in The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

The Color Purple follows Celie, a poor but resilient woman in an unhappy marriage in the South who falls in love with Shug Avery, the beautiful folk singer and ex lover of Celie’s husband. Throughout the novel, Shug has a very lucrative and successful musical career and inspires another woman in the book, Mary Agnes, to attempt a career in singing as well. However, even as Shug becomes more successful, she is continually seen as attractive before talented, while Mary Agnes is also evaluated for her appearance more than her ability to sing. Female musicians in the early 1900s were forced to overcome sexism, racism and the unfair reality of being viewed in terms of their appearance rather than their talent, which were issues that they commonly...

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