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Theresa Vara-Dannen

banjoist, actor, minstrel comedian, was born in Hartford, Connecticut to Sampson Easton and his wife, Louisa (maiden name unknown). Although there has been some confusion among scholars about his date of birth, the 1850 Federal Census indicates that a male child named “Hoser” (sic) was one year old, living with his Massachusetts-born father, a laborer and later “hackman” (a carriage driver for hire), and his Connecticut-born mother. His paternal grandfather, after whom he was named, was Hosea Easton, the minister of the Talcott Street Congregational Church in Hartford. The first Hosea Easton earned great respect for his groundbreaking work, A Treatise On the Intellectual Character, and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the U. States; And the Prejudice Exercised Towards Them; With A Sermon on the Duty of the Church To Them (1837 The family was also descended directly from James ...

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Marva Griffin Carter

entertainer, was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, the son of Luther Fletcher, a steamboat fireman, and Mary Eliza Cox, a cook. A stage performance sometime before 1888 of Harriet Beecher Stowe'sUncle Tom's Cabin that featured a cadre of African American actors and in which he played a small part initially inspired Tom Fletcher to pursue a career in entertainment. Later Fletcher became the first black actor to play the role of Uncle Tom.

Fletcher spent more than sixty years on the stage or performing in various venues As a boy soprano he sang in local talent shows and played in the Portsmouth fife corps His professional theatrical career began at age fifteen when he appeared with such groups as Howard s Novelty Colored Minstrels the Old Kentucky show Ed Winn s minstrel company and Richard and Pringle s Georgia Minstrels At the turn of the twentieth century ...

Article

David Bradford

show business entrepreneur, minstrel company owner and manager, interlocutor, singer, and comedian, claimed to have been born a slave in Baltimore, Maryland. Nothing is known of his parents.

The minstrel show was, by some measures, the most popular form of public entertainment during the mid-nineteenth century. For African Americans pursuing careers in show business, there were few alternatives to blackface minstrelsy, leading to the perplexing situation of black performers perpetuating white caricatures of blacks. Some African Americans were disdainful of minstrel shows in general and especially those staged by performers of their own race (since they gave “aid and comfort to the enemy,” according to James Monroe Trotter a chronicler of black musical achievement in the 1870s Nevertheless the best black minstrel companies were enormously popular with black as well as white audiences After attending a performance of the Georgia Minstrels even the erudite ...

Article

(b Portsmouth, VA, Jan 5, 1868/9; d Providence, RI, June 24, 1933). American soprano. From the age of 15 she studied singing in Providence, Rhode Island, and later studied privately in Boston at the New England Conservatory, and with Louise Capianni and Mme Scongia in London. On 5 April 1888 she made her début at Steinway Hall, New York, in a Bergen Star Concert. From 1888 to 1895 she toured the USA, Canada, Europe and the West Indies as a soloist, attracting national attention with her well-publicized appearances at the Grand Negro Jubilee at Madison Square Garden and the White House in 1892, and at the Pittsburgh Exposition and the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. From 1896 to 1915 she was the leading soloist of Black Patti s Troubadours a vaudeville company managed by Rudolf Voelckel and ...

Article

Sissieretta Jones came early to music. Her father was the pastor and choir director of their Portsmouth, Virginia, African Methodist Episcopal Church, and her mother a soprano in the choir. She married at the age of fourteen, and began voice training the next year in Providence, Rhode Island. Jones continued her studies at the New England Conservatory in Boston, making her performance debut in that city in 1887. She acquired the nickname “Black Patti” from a newspaper review that praised her as an African American match for the renowned Italian soprano Adelina Patti.

National fame arrived with Jones's performance at the 1892 Grand Negro Jubilee at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Before an audience of 75,000, she sang selections from the opera La Traviata as well as the song Swanee River This combination of high opera and a popular repertoire continued throughout Jones s ...

Article

Marta J. Effinger-Crichlow

classical prima donna and musical comedy performer, was born Matilda Sissieretta Joyner in Portsmouth, Virginia, less than four years after the abolition of slavery. Jones was the only surviving child of Jeremiah Malachi Joyner, a former slave and pastor of the Afro-Methodist Church in Portsmouth, and Henrietta B. Joyner, a singer in the church choir. Thus, she was exposed to music during her formative years. When she was six years old her family moved to Rhode Island, where Jones began singing in the church choir, which her father directed. Her school classmates were mesmerized by her sweet, melodic, soprano voice and nicknamed her “Sissy.”

She began studying voice as a teenager at the prestigious Providence Academy of Music with Ada, Baroness Lacombe, an Italian prima donna. Not long afterward, in 1883, when she was only fourteen, Sissieretta met and married David Richard Jones a newspaperman ...

Article

Diane Epstein

Discovering Sissieretta Jones is like uncovering a buried treasure. In the twenty-first century, her name may not be a household word, but she was a well-known and respected performer in her time.

Jones was born Matilda Sissieretta Joyner in 1869 in Portsmouth, Virginia, in a middle-class environment. Her father, Malachi Joyner, was a Baptist minister. Her mother, Henrietta Beale Joyner sang in the church choir and is said to have had a wonderful soprano voice This appears to be where young Sissieretta inherited her own naturally beautiful voice It was obvious by the time she was five years old that she had a gift and her family was instrumental in promoting her talent To give her a chance for formal music study the family moved from Virginia to Providence Rhode Island She now could study classical voice at Providence Academy of Music From the Providence Academy Jones ...

Article

David Bradford

singer, dancer, comedian, and songwriter, was born Samuel Milady in Washington Court House, Ohio. Nothing is known of his parents except, according to some sources, that they were ex-slaves. Known as the “dean of the Negro stage,” Lucas was a multifaceted entertainer who was featured in many of the leading minstrel companies and musical plays of his age including Callender's Original Georgia Minstrels, The Hyers Sisters' Out of Bondage, Sam T. Jack's The Creole Show, and Cole and Johnson's A Trip to Coontown. He also was the first black actor to play the title role in a major stage production of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the first African American to have a leading role in a motion picture.

When he was nineteen Lucas moved to Cincinnati where he worked as a barber He sang and played the guitar and soon began ...