Sissieretta Jones Plaque - Atlas Obscura

Sissieretta Jones Plaque

This plaque honors the unsung Black songstress once known as the “greatest singer of her race.” 

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Born in 1868 and active between 1887 and 1915, Sissieretta Jones was the highest-paid Black performer of her time, who sang at the White House for four consecutive U.S. presidents. Met with international success, she also toured across the globe, from South America to Australia, India to sub-Saharan Africa, and even performed for the British royal family.

Her international fame did not quite spare her from racism, however, and it was (as she noted in her letters) worse in the United States than in Europe. The Metropolitan Opera rescinded its offer of a lead role after considering the color of her skin, and a frustrated, disappointed, and disillusioned Sissieretta returned to Providence to care for her ill mother and to form her own musical act, the Black Patti Troubadours, which was met with success.

Sissieretta herself later fell ill and retired entirely from music in 1915. She sold most of her property to survive and did not have any money left for her own gravestone.

It was only recently, in 2018, that money was raised to place a headstone on her grave in the local Grace Church Cemetery, six years after a crowdfunding campaign erected a historical marker plaque at the site of her home in the College Hill neighborhood. Unfortunately, Sissieretta does not seem to have made any recordings in her life, and if she ever did, none has survived.

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