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*Abbie Mitchell was born on this date in 1884. She was a Black singer and actress.
From the Lower East Side of New York City, she was the daughter of a Black African mother and a German Jewish father, both of who were musically talented. After completing her public school training in Baltimore, she began to study voice in New York in 1897. Lyricist, Paul L. Dunbar, and composer Will Marion Cook who cast her in their musical Clorindy, the Origin of the Cakewalk, recognized her talent.
A year later she married Cook and was given the principal role in Tes Lak White Folks. The years ahead were filled with many shows and events around the theatrical life of New York. Mitchell joined the Memphis Student, a playing, singing, and dancing group that opened at Proctor’s Twenty-third Street Theater, the Victoria Theater, and the Roof Garden. She also worked at the Olympia in Paris, the Palace Theater in London, and the Schumann Circus in Berlin. Between 1904 and 1912, she appeared in The Southerner and Bandanna Land.
Years after returning to America, Mitchell took a position as head of the voice department at Tuskegee Institute; this did not keep her from singing in concert. She appeared in Coquette with Helen Hayes in Chicago in 1929 and at Town Hall in New York in 1931. Abbie Mitchell died in Harlem on March 16th, 1960.
Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York