IRA ALDRIDGE, A GREAT AMERICAN NEGRO
ACTOR OF THE PAST CENTURY.
Chaplain T. G. Steward, D.D., U. S. A., Retired.
IN the library of Wilberforce University there
is an alcove containing choice works by au-
thors of African descent, from various parts
of the world, as well as interesting notices
of distinguished persons of the same general
race. Among these books and papers is a
portfolio containing more than one hundred play bills or
posters announcing the engagements of the great colored
tragedian, Ira Aldridge, in English towns and cities. They
bear dates from 1830 forward. In the same folio are three good
pictures of the great artist; but as none of these things may be
taken from the library, I must content myself with this refer-
ence to them, and will endeavor to portray the career of this
truly extraordinary man with such help as may lie within my
In my childhood days his name was frequently mentioned
as he was then in the blaze of his glory. The story of his life,
passing over the points in it which are disputed, is about as
follows: He was born in Belair, Md., in probably 1810.
Early becoming imbued with the desire to appear on the stage,
he attempted to win attention in Baltimore. Failing, he went
to England, and after playing in some of the smaller towns
made his debut in London at Royal Theatre in 1833, as
"Othello, the Moor." The same year he played also in Covent
Garden. His playing was so successful that Edmund Kean
played the part of "Iago" to Aldridge's "Othello" in Belfast,
during this tour.
After securing what may be classed as a triumph in Eng-
land Aldridge toured the Continent, the period of his activity