Tyina Steptoe

Associate Professor, History

Headshot of Tyina Steptoe

TYINA'S TALK: Cornrows and Cowboy Hats

Beyoncé’s art conveys a strong sense of place, whether through the repetition of the word “Texas” at the beginning of “Daddy Lessons,” or through the use of Houston and New Orleans as the setting for numerous music videos. Explore Beyoncé’s visual and sonic allusions to the “western South,” notably black southern, Creole and Tejano musical cultures. The use of acoustic guitars, accordions, and New Orleans brass in her music draws on the cultures of the western South to create a sonic Borderlands. 


Tyina Steptoe is an associate professor of history at the University of Arizona who writes and teaches about race, gender, and culture in the United States. Her book, Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City, shows how, despite the existence of Jim Crow laws that created a black/white racial binary, converging migrations to Houston—particularly those of ethnic Mexicans and Creoles of color—complicated ideas of blackness and whiteness and introduced different understandings about race between the 1920s and 1960s. The book also uses music to examine these racial complexities, tracing the emergence of Houston's blues and jazz scenes as well as the hybrid forms of these genres that arose when migrants forged shared social space and carved out new communities. Houston Bound won the Kenneth Jackson Award for Best Book of 2016 (North American) from the Urban History Association, the 2017 W. Jackson Turrentine Book Prize from the Western History Association, and the 2017 Julia Ideson Award from the Friends of the Texas Room (Houston Metropolitan Research Center).

Currently, she is working on several projects that explore race, culture, and history – a collection of primary documents from the Jim Crow era, a manuscript that explores the history of sexuality and gender in rhythm and blues music, and a monograph on the singing group, New Edition. Professor Steptoe is also committed to work that reaches beyond the walls of the university. She has served as historical advisor for the television show, “Who Do You Think You Are,” appearing on a 2016 episode. She also hosts a weekly radio program on 91.3 KXCI called “Soul Stories,” which explores the roots and branches of rhythm and blues music.