The Blues singer Bessie Smith may have been the most successful black recording artist in the 1920s. She was “a very quiet woman, didn’t bother nobody,” Louis Armstrong remembered. “But, God, don’t mess with her.” At Concord, North Carolina, in July of 1927, when Klansmen tried to pull down the tent under which she was performing, she stormed all alone into their midst, cursing and vowing to “get the whole damn tent out here if I have to. You just pick up them sheets and run! ” They did.