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.
This portrait is part of the Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection held by the University of Bristol Theatre Colllection. The Mander & Mitchenson collection is completely unique - the result of the lifetime’s work of Raymond Mander (1911 - 1983) and Joe Mitchenson (1911 – 1992) collecting the archives and ephemera of Britain’s theatrical history. The collection is internationally recognised for its quality, which reflects the public and private “life” of Theatre from the 18th century to modern times.
It was digitised by the University of Bristol Theatre Collection as part of Bristol Old Vic’s “Protecting and Sharing the Heritage of Britain’s Oldest Theatre ” project, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.