Ira Aldridge

Circa: February 1826

African American actor Ira Aldridge was forced to emigrate in 1824 to escape continuing racial discrimination in America. He first performed at the Theatre Royal Bristol in February 1826, returning for multiple performances in the 1830s.

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.