Sissieretta Jones Lives
Black Patti's Story
The Soprano is one in a series of Digging up Bones. It is absolutely necessary to shed light on these personalities from the past. Many of whom did not receive then and many do not now receive the true recognition for their talents. Sissieretta Jones was born in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1868 five years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Which was done under his authority of the commander and chief of the army and navy. Under section 2 article 2 of the constitution. The previous information was added in order to give you an ideal of the thinking at the time. Nevertheless and in spite of all of the negative circumstances she became known worldwide. He parents Minister Jeremiah Joyner and wife Henrietta recognize at an early age their child had talent. Consequently, they sent her to the Providence Academy of Music in 1883. Here she studied under Italian prima Donna Ada Baroness Lacombe. The life of Sissieretta Jones was an indication of what was possible.
Many people have great potential; all they need is the opportunity to exhibit the possibilities. Fortunately today we have avenues were one can showcase their talents. During these days they were not present. So what did Sissieretta Jones do? She opened up her own establishment. This made it possible for her friends and family to see her showcase her talent. For instance she was the first African American to perform at what would become Carnegie Hall but her family were not allowed due to the prevailing thought pattern of the day. Researching her story reminds me of Madame CJ Walker the first person to become a millionaire in the United States. These women had a sense of themselves and knowledge of their abilities. Now, Mrs. Jones after marring David Richard Jones a news dealer and bellman. During the 1880s she was inducted into the New England Conservatory in Boston.
There she studied under the famous African American Soprano Flora Batson. The young and beautiful Mrs. Jones caught the eye of promoters after giving a stirring performance to a crowd of approximately five thousand at the Boston Music Hall. Batson received top billing as “Queen of Song”. Jones was listed as a rising soprano Mme S.J.Jones. Her major break would come in at the Wallack’s Theater in New York, this where she came in contact with the manager of the Italian prima donna Adelina Patti. After this performance she was dubbed “black Patti” according to inside sources. This is the type of person who opened doors and paved the way for the famous Leontyne Price. Mrs. Jones was not particular partial to the nickname “Black Patti” nevertheless it attached itself to her and clung tenaciously.
The increased popularity and the beauty of her voice led to tours with the famous Tennessee Jubilee Singer in 1888-1891. William Henry Harrison and his guest enjoyed a performance by Mrs. Jones, matter of fact there would be four performances at the White House. She would perform for Presidents Grover Cleveland, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. In 1892 her popularity would increase with a performance with the famous baritone Harry T. Burleigh as the first African Americans to perform in Madison Square Garden. This Music Hall would receive a new name two years later ”Carnegie Hall. Three years after Andrew Carnegie lay the corner stone in1890 Mrs. Jones was invited to sing at the Chicago’s World’s Fair. As her popularity increased she traveled to Berlin, Munich, Paris, Cologne, Milan, India, Australia and London. Unfortunately, Her European tour ended due to an illness in the family. Upon returning home in 1896 the singer had to admit that with few exceptions the classical stage in America was close to African Americans. So in 1896 she formed the Black Patti Troubadours and toured the country. The choice turned out to be a lucrative one. She was locked into a 40-week season at an annual salary of 20,00 per year. This reminds me of the legendary James Brown who decided to promote himself as it turns out it was more lucrative for him as an entertainer. According to Mr. Brown “it is better to make 40 thousand dollars a night versus 1500.00 a night. As a great man from Chicago one stated and it remains relevant to day “Learn To Do For Self"