Mme. Sissieretta Jones

Acclaimed 19th century opera singer Sissieretta Jones, née Joyner, moved with her family to Providence at the age of 8. She lived here on Weaton Street from 1876 until her death in 1933, although it is clear she was traveling the world for much of that time. Jones was sometimes known as The Black Patti. This comparison to Italian opera singer Adelina Patti was considered the highest praise at the time, although it is strange to think of any black artist needing or wanting such borrowed credentials today.

According to Wikipedia, Jones began singing at an early age in her father’s Pond Street Baptist Church (which still exists just not on Pond Street!) later studying at the Providence Academy of Music. Her career took off and with a repertoire of grand opera, light opera, and popular music ended up performing for four consecutive U.S. presidents, British royalty, and the Kaiser. She was the first African-American woman to perform at Carnegie Hall and sang at Madison Square Garden for a crowd of 75,000. Sissieretta Jones was a really big deal and probably more than the ‘Greatest Singer of Her Race’ although that would still be saying something. Sadly there are no known recordings.

Sissieretta Jones is buried in the Grace Church cemetery. The 1889 poster below is from the Library of Congress collection — check out the bling.  The plaque above was installed by the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society.

The Black Patti

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