Ira Aldridge

Circa: March 1846

Forced to emigrate in 1824 to escape continuing racial discrimination in America, African American actor Ira Aldridge first performed at the Theatre Royal Bristol on the 16 March 1846. 

Billed as the ‘African Roscius’, he successfully portrayed a variety of Shakespearean roles including Othello, Macbeth, King Lear and Shylock, as well as parts like Oroonoko in the Revolt of Surinam: or A Slave’s Revenge, and Mungo in The Padlock. Renowned as the first black theatrical star, Ira was also the first American actor to receive critical and popular acclaim throughout Europe, and to perform at Covent Garden. 

Though London audiences were divided, Ira continually received praise from famous performers like Edmund Kean and Jenny Lind.