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Sissieretta Jones: The Black Patti

On this day 110 years ago—February 13, 1893—a benefit was held for the World's Fair Colored Opera and Concert Company. According to an review of the event in The New York Times, it was staged to raise funds for and gauge the interest in a production of Will Marion Cook's Scenes from the Opera of Uncle Tom's Cabin at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, a performance that in the end did not happen.

Although the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Will Marion Cook himself on violin, and several other soloists appeared that evening, soprano Sissieretta Jones was the star attraction. In the aforementioned review, the Times said that Jones had "a voice of surpassing sweetness, a distinct enunciation, and a wide range," commenting that "she easily held her vast audience spellbound from beginning to end."

Here, our Archives and Museum Director Gino Francesconi relates the story of the rise and fall of "The Black Patti" and how we came to have a very rare piece of Sissieretta Jones memorabilia on display in the Rose Museum at the Hall.