The RI Black Heritage Society proposes to restore and display a 1890's dress worn by the first African American diva: Sissieretta Jones
Before there was Ella Fitzgerald, before there was Billy Holiday and Lena Horne, before Diana Ross, Aretha and Beyonce, there was the first African American diva: Sisieretta Jones. Please click the image to hear an incredible vocal recording of a song from Jones' repertoire!
Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones of Providence, whose stage name, “Black Patti,” likened her to the renowned Spanish-born opera diva Adelina Patti, was a celebrated African American soprano during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Serving as a role model for other African American stage artists who followed her, Jones became a successful performer despite the obstacles she faced from Jim Crow segregation. Jones went from concert singer to star of her own musical revue company, The Black Patti Troubadours. Critics praised Jones as America’s leading African American prima donna, with some deeming her voice “one in a million.” Sissieretta Jones, all but forgotten today, but in her own time a tour de force vocalist in high demand having performed before four American Presidents and the crown princes of Europe, died in near-obscurity and abject poverty at her home on Providence’s East Side in 1933. Hers is the story of success driven by talent and ambition in spite of rampant racism.
The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society is continuing its efforts to celebrate the life of this remarkable woman. The Society has in its possession a 1890's Sissieretta Jones performance dress which we will restore and display along with several other artifacts from her life and career.
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The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society has secured the services of renowned American textile conservator Deirdre Windsor, who is best known for her restoration work on Jacqueline Kennedy’s dress worn at her Newport wedding to John F. Kennedy.
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