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Ira Aldridge


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Ira Aldridge: The Early Years, 1807-1833 chronicles the rise of one of the modern world's first black classical actors, as he ascended from an impoverished childhood in New York City to a career as a celebrated thespian on the British stage.
After a successful debut in London in 1825, Aldridge began touring the British provinces, billing himself grandiloquently as the "African Roscius," and attracting crowds with his powerful presence and style. He received accolades not only as a tragedian in classic roles such as Othello and Oroonoko but also as a comic actor in popular farces and musicals. In 1833, when a bill to abolish slavery was being debated in Parliament, he was called back to London to perform at one of the city's most prestigious theaters, where his appearance, now under his own name but also billed as "a native of Senegal," created a great deal of controversy.
In dealing with Aldridge's emergence as a professional actor in the United Kingdom, Lindfors here records in detail the ups and downs of his itinerant existence in a world where no theatergoer had ever seen anyone like him on stage before. Aldridge was genuinely a unique phenomenon in Britain at a pivotal point in history.

Bernth Lindfors is Professor Emeritus of English and African Literatures, University of Texas at Austin, and editor of Ira Aldridge: The African Roscius (University of Rochester Press, 2007).


Winner of the 2012 Errol Hill Award, given by the American Society for Theatre Research for outstanding scholarship in African American theater, drama, and/or performance studies.

Impressive. . . will be welcomed by scholars of theater, race, and African American studies. CHOICE

A work of monumental scholarship. AFRICAN THEATRE

A meticulously researched and exhaustively detailed biography. E3W REVIEW OF BOOKS

A meticulously researched account. . . handsomely produced. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT


First Published: 30 Oct 2011
13 Digit ISBN: 9781580463812
Pages: 402
Size: 9 x 6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: University of Rochester Press
Series: Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora

Details updated on 01 Sep 2014


  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  
  • 3  The Lives of Ira Aldridge
  • 4  Family Matters
  • 5  Life in New York City
  • 6  Charles Mathews and James Hewlett
  • 7  A Gentleman of Colour
  • 8  The African Tragedian
  • 9  The African Roscius on Tour
  • 10  A Fresh Start
  • 11  A New Venture
  • 12  Expanding the Repertoire
  • 13  London Again
  • 14  Playing New Roles
  • 15  Pale Experiments
  • 16  Dublin
  • 17  Racial Compliments and Abuse
  • 18  Re-engagements
  • 19  Shakespeare Burlesques
  • 20  A Satirical Battering Ram
  • 21  Covent Garden
  • 22  Other London Engagements
  • 23  Moving On

Ira Aldridge

Ira Aldridge

Ira Aldridge

Ira Aldridge

Ira Aldridge

Ira Aldridge