Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Black Women in History:`Highnotes in History- Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones

My music selections are as diverse as my hairstyle choices.  I have fallin' in love with jazz through Billie and Etta, gotten soulful with Jill and India, and gotten over spiritually with Mahalia.  African Americans have contributed a lot to music world, and many have gone unrecognized.  A few years ago when I began researching notable women in the African American community for the Black Women in History Post Series I came across several references to Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones, also known as Black Patti.  
Black Patti was the first African American to perform at Wallack's Theater on Br oadway in 1888 and Carnigie Hall in 1892. During the late 19th early 20th century she was one of the highest paid performers.

Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones was born in Portsmouth, Virginia January aroudn 1868 or 1869 to former slaves.  Like many performers in the African American community, Joyner-Jones began her career in church.  After attending New England Conservatory of Music, she made her professional debut at a benefit concert in Boston to an audience of over five thousand.  After a history making performance at the Wallack Theater as the first African American performer,  she joined an African American performance troupe and toured the West Indies for several months.  Upon returning to the US she toured several east coast cities and obtained further vocal instruction.

Labeled "The Greatest Singer of Her Race" she was given the  nick name Black Patti after Adelina Patti, an Italian-American soprano featured at the Metroplitian Opera. Joyner-Jones did not like the nickname, but it may have been one of the keys to her career success. She had the privilege of performing for four US presidents and was a featured performer  at the Grand Negro Jubilee in 1892 at Madison Square Gardens. Though marriage and management problems surfaced, Joyner-Jones remained persistent After gaining new management, the traveling showBlack Patti’s Troubadours was formed. Though the show provided a steady income and the opportunity to travel around the United States, Joyner-Jones was not fully satisfied.  She felt that the Troubadours were ministerial show, thus being counterproductive to the image she wanted to portray.  Ultimately after the decline of the ministerial genre, her career took a hit and she was left like many artist of the time penniless, and would later seek public assistance. Matilla Sissieretta Joyner-Jones died June 24, 1933 and there a no known recording of her soprano voice.  Her story tells of the the importance of preserving history.

Peace and Love,

Najeema Iman, I AM Curly Locks (Wishing I could hear her voice today) 

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