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date: 10 July 2020

Batson, Flora locked

1864–1906 Internationally famous African American singer of ballads whose prominence and unusual soprano-to-baritone range earned her the appellation “the double-voiced queen of song.”
  • Doris Evans McGinty


Flora Batson was born on April 16, 1864, in Washington, D.C. At the age of three she was taken by her widowed mother, Mary A. Batson, to live in Providence, Rhode Island. Although she never received formal training as a singer, her powerful voice attracted attention as early as her ninth year, when she began singing in church choirs in Providence. Beginning in 1878 she was hired to perform for the benefit of Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. At the end of two years she was offered tuition-free education there, but she chose to continue her singing career in order to provide support for her mother. There followed a three-year engagement with Peoples' Church of Boston, and from 1883 to 1885 she made a series of appearances with Thomas N. Doutney and other temperance advocates. These appearances included a European tour and climaxed in a New ...

A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.

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