- Glenda R. Carpio
blues recording artist and performer, was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the third of seven children, to William Smith and Laura (maiden name unknown). The exact date of Bessie's birth is unknown, partly because in the rural and poor place in which she was born the official records of African Americans were given little care. The abject poverty in which Bessie's family lived contributed to the death of her eldest brother, who died before Smith was born, and her father, a part-time Baptist preacher, who died shortly after her birth. By the time Bessie was eight or nine, her mother and a second brother had died. Viola, the oldest sister, raised the remaining brothers and sisters.
There are a number of gaps in the record of Smith s career some of which have been filled by myth There is evidence that she began singing when she was nine performing ...
A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.