Ira Frederick Aldridge

19th-century American actor
Born: July 24, 1804
Birthplace: New York, N.Y.

Aldridge was born to free blacks in New York City, and educated at the New York African Free School, where he developed an interest in the theater. As a teenager, Aldridge debuted as an actor in the city's first African American theater group, called the African Theatre. After the African Theatre closed in 1823, Aldridge emigrated to England where black actors in the 19th century had far greater opportunities. He became an acclaimed Shakespearean actor there, playing such roles as Macbeth, King Lear, and of course Othello. He toured extensively in Europe, where he enjoyed an even greater reputation than in England. Aldridge became known as the “African Roscius,” after the great ancient Roman comic actor. In 1863, he became an English citizen, and is believed never to have returned to the United States.

Died: Aug. 7, 1867

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