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Chattanooga Pop Culture

Chattanooga's image was solidified when it became one of the major flash points in the Civil War. Many books and scholarly papers have been written on the battles that took place on Lookout Mountain and the riverfront here. After the war, Chattanooga became a gateway to the Southern states when it began to cultivate a local culture that included a strong musical and literary presence. Bessie Smith, the Empress of the Blues, was a native of the city. After working her way up from the ranks of street performer, she became a legend of the blues scene. The loud-spoken and often heavy-drinking Smith was unlike anything the music scene had known. She possessed one of the most soulful voices of the day and was widely sought after as a recording artist. She most notably worked with Louis Armstrong. Langston Hughes praised her in his essay, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," and mentioned her in his poem, “A Theme for English B." The song that brought Chattanooga fame far and wide was "Chattanooga Choo Choo" by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. The song was featured in the 1941 film 'Sun Valley Serenade' and quickly soared to the top of the charts. The song tells the story of a trip from New York to Chattanooga; in that day, most trains tracking north to south came through Chattanooga. Every spring, Chattanooga hosts the Conference on Southern Literature, which is the premier conference for Southern writers and literary scholars. Popular authors, such as Bobbie Ann Mason, Jim Dickey and Eudora Welty, have spoken at this conference.
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