Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > "Birthplace of the Blues?": Dockery Farms, Mythic South, and the Erasure of the African American Lived Experience in Mississippi Blues Tourism

From humble grassroots beginnings, blues tourism has expanded to a multimillion-dollar industry for Mississippi. This thesis utilizes Dockery Farms historic site as a case study to discuss the representation of African Americans within blues tourism. Dockery is particularly important because it is deemed the Birthplace of the Blues and presents two common narratives found in blues tourism- William Dockery’s “Great White Man” narrative along with Charlie Patton’s “periphery black musician” narrative. Utilizing personal letters, photographs, historic sites, and theoretical concepts including the “Old” and “New” South, this thesis offers a critical analysis of the history presented at cultural tourist sites in Mississippi. Both myth and memory inform constructions of the past through cultural tourism and this thesis argues that blues cultural tourist sites and publications consistently underrepresent the African American lived experience. This work aims to lead to the reassessment of tourist sites and the addition of an inclusive history.