Sissieretta Jones – 2013

One of the world’s greatest sopranos in the late 19th century and the first African-American to perform at Carnegie Hall

Sissieretta Jones, of Providence, was one of the greatest sopranos in the world at the turn of the last century. Music critics of the era dubbed her the “Black Patti” as only Italian opera great Adelina Patti was considered her equal. She was one of the first women to break the color barrier in opera and was the first African-American to perform at Carnegie Hall.

She toured the world and was honored and decorated by heads of state around the globe. When mounting social pressures forced her to rethink her future in opera, she launched a second successful career in popular music when she organized a theatrical troupe she named “The Black Patti Troubadours” which is credited as being the first such organization owned and operated by African-Americans. B

y presenting variety shows with a story line for continuity, she not only assisted in the late-19th century transition from minstrelsy to vaudeville, but helped pave the way for the 20th century Broadway theatre tradition in the pre-“Showboat” era. Sissieretta is the subject of a major biography published in 2012 and the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society dedicated a plaque in her honor at her homestead on Pratt Street on the East Side of Providence on publication date.

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