History Alive is a program of first-person portrayals of historical figures by presenters who have conducted scholarly research on their character. As the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s, Smith was the highest-paid Black performer of her day. She was known as the “Empress of the Blues” by virtue of her forceful vocal delivery and command of the genre. In addition, she was an all-around entertainer who danced, acted and performed comedy routines with her touring company. She was a staple of the “Chitlin’ Circuit” and throughout the Jim Crow South, and many of her tunes have been covered by various artists through the decades.