The birthday of blues icon W.C. Handy is celebrated in Florence


FLORENCE, Ala. – The boyhood home of W.C. Handy now operates as a museum and Wednesday marked the birthday of the man who is widely known as the father of the blues.  

Handy is recognized as the leader who popularized the music. Wednesday, his hometown of Florence celebrated the birthday of their most famous native son. 

William Christopher Handy was born on November 17, 1873, in Florence, Alabama. His lasting memory and his music are kept alive here at the museum that bears his name. Just a few blocks from where he was raised and a stone’s throw away from St. Paul’s Church where his father was a pastor. 

“Blues has a way of bringing people together, bonded them together because of their experiences and W.C. Handy highlighted that,” said Florence Mayor Andy Betterton.

His father forbid him to play the blues in his home. That’s when Handy decided to move out from his parents and during the time of segregation, he could not find a place to live. Homeless, he still formed a band and he took his traveling blue show across the country and became known as the creator of the iconic blues sound. 

“In those times he would play for big venues. Not being able to go to any restaurants, not being able to go to sleep at any hotels. They slept on the side of the road. But yet and still he was determined,”  recalled W.C. Handy Museum Curator Algene Norwood.

 His parents and the church folks in Florence disapproved of his music selection but they were all in agreement that he had a lot of talent. That talent was celebrated 136 years later in his hometown.

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