Not a lot of contemporary posters for Ira Aldridge, whose stage career was a bit more upscale. Certainly in his time he was better known. Pable Fanque was a star of England. Aldridge was an international star.
He was a New York native, son of free blacks and beneficiary of a classical education at the African Free School of New York. He also spent time at the Park Theatre in lower Manhattan and was soon working at African Grove.
In a path that became to all too familiar (think Josephine Baker and Nina Simone among others) , he thought he would find more opportunity in Europe than in America. He was right. He attended the University of Glasgow for a period, but was soon back on the stage. At first assumed to be a novelty – fancy an actor who could play black without burnt cork! – Aldridge tended to be somewhat typecast: (The Ethiopian, or the Quadroon of the Mango Grove; The Negro’s Curse; The Death of Cristophe, King of Hayti). Continue reading