About Ira Aldridge
It is appropriate that the theatre of Howard University, the "capstone of Negro education," be named after Ira Aldridge (1807-1867), hailed as the "African Roscius" and a "capstone" in the annals of Theatre and Dramatic history.
Aldridge was educated at the African Free School, established in New York in 1787. Although Aldridge's father intended that his son concentrate his talents towards religious pursuits, Ira preferred the magic and gratification of the stage.
Aldridge's acting and producing career, formally launched while still in his late teens, took him all over the continent and Russia, and spanned an awesome period of over forty years. His first major performance abroad was at the Coburg Theatre in London in 1825. Within a few years, Aldridge, the "African Roscius," was obviously destined for success and was never again billed as "American."
In addition to acting on the professional European stage, Aldridge sought to educate all levels of society with his one man program which he called "Grant Classic and Dramatic Entertainment." In such programs, the "African Roscius" lectured on Drama and performed excerpts from plays in his repertoire.
Aldridge's style of interpretation, performance and production was highly realistic. On the stage, as well as in his private life, he constantly sought to communicate racial equality.
During his long and diverse career, Chevalier Aldridge, Knight of Saxony, was honored and decorated by the governments of Haiti, Russia, Poland, Prussia and Hungary.
Ira Aldridge died in Lodz, Poland on August 7, 1867.*
*For a detailed account of Aldridge's career consult: Herbert Marshall and Mildred Stock, Ira Aldridge: The Negro Tragedian, (Carbondale, Illinois: Southern University Press, 1968).