Home to Columbus: Ma Rainey’s Voice Heard For the Last Time

Ma Rainey, although she’d traveled considerably until 1935, had always left her heart down South. That year her sister died and Ma went home to Columbus, Georgia to live in the house she had built for her family.

Over the years she had learned to be a good businesswoman and bought two theaters in Rome, a city near Columbus. After coming home she took over the operation of these. By the time she turned fifty she ceased to sing regularly, but did join the Friendship Baptist Church. Then, three days before Christmas in 1939, Ma Rainey’s voice was heard for the last time.

Ma Rainey Sings No More

On December 22, 1939, Gertrude Pridgett ‘Ma’ Rainey died. Her death certificate surely gave a sign of the times of Black struggle and the fight for equality when it simply noted that the occupation of the deceased was-housekeeping. But those that sing the blues, or just get a lift from hearing them sung, know better-oh so much better.

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