Steven C. Tracy
Like the waves of the sea coming one after another, always one after another, like the earth moving around the sun, night, day—night, day—night, day— forever, so is the undertow of black music with its rhythm that never betrays you, its strength like the beat of the human heart, its humor, and its rooted power.
—Langston Hughes, The Big Sea
It was the year that the opera star Enrico Caruso made his first recordings; that the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet made the first phonograph recordings by Afro-Americans; that Ma Rainey initiated her singing career in a traveling show and first heard the blues in a small Missouri town; that the blues performers Son House, Skip James, Barbecue Bob, Viola “Miss Rhapsody” Wells, and Peetie Wheatstraw were born. And 1902 was the year that the Missouri-born Langston Hughes first drew breath in a new