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Fri, 07.24.1807

Ira Frederick Aldridge, Stage Actor born

Ira Aldridge

This date commemorates the birth of Ira Frederick Aldridge in 1807. He was a Black actor, considered one of the greatest interpreters of his day.

He was born in Maryland.  Because of the lack of schools for Blacks in Maryland, Aldridge moved to New York and attended the African Free School and Schenectady College. The British-American actor James William Wallack is believed to have hired him as a personal attendant while visiting the United States.

At Schenectady, Aldridge became interested in acting, raised money, and moved to Glasgow, Scotland.  He studied at the University of Glasgow, developing voice projection and dramatic skills. Aldridge began to study for the stage, moving to England in the mid-1820s. In 1833, he debuted highly in London as Othello at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. Billed as the "African Roscius," after the great Roman comic actor, he made triumphant tours of Europe in several Shakespearean roles, including Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth.  After 1853, he played mainly in Europe, receiving honors from the emperors of Austria, Switzerland, and Russia, among others.

Aldridge was planning a trip back to the United States, but it is doubtful that he ever returned; he became an English citizen in 1863. Aldridge was the first Black to become a knight.  He married twice and was divorced once. At the Shakespearean Memorial Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon, England, a chair is dedicated to his memory of him.  Ira Aldridge died on August 7, 1867, in Lodz, Poland.

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