In 1892, soprano Sissieretta Jones became the first African American to perform at Carnegie Hall. Reportedly she sang “Ava Maria” as well as selections from Verdi’s “La Traviata” at the year-old music venue.
She was no New York City novice though. Jones had already made a name for herself singing both arias and popular tunes at smaller halls, like Wallack’s Theater on Broadway and 13th Street and Steinway Hall on 14th near University Place. At Steinway Hall she got the nickname the “Black Patti,” after Italian opera singer Adelina Patti.
A few months before her Carnegie Hall debut, she performed at Madison Square Garden as part of the “Negro Grand Jubilee” for an audience of 75,000.
Jones became nationally and internationally renowned. But frustrated by racism at many music venues, she eventually formed the Black Patti Troubadours, a vaudville-like music revue that toured major cities for decades.
She died in 1933, reportedly broke, in her hometown of Providence.