Ira Frederick Aldridge
- (1804 - 67) The first great Black American actor. The so-calledAfrican Roscius began performing in New York in 1821 withJames Brown's African-American company at the African Grove tea garden.As racial barriers prevented him from developing a theatrical careerin America, he moved to Britain, making his London debut in 1826 atthe Royalty Theatre.
In the course of his highly successful career, Aldridge playednot only Othello but also Shylock, Macbeth, Lear, and other majorShakespearean roles. He made his first tour of the Continent in 1853,becoming especially popular in Germany, where he acted in Englishwhile his supporting cast spoke German. His only performances of Learwere in Russia, where he played with a whitened face but black hands.Aldridge's success brought him considerable wealth and decorationsfrom monarchs in Prussia, Russia, and Saxe-Meiningen. He became anaturalized British subject in 1863.