Robin Bernstein

Professor of African and African American Studies and of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Ira Aldridge
Letter to Danzig Theatre’s Director
Groß-Glogau, 1851

A major idea in my course, “African American Theatre, Drama, and Performance,” is that nineteenth-century African American performers were cosmopolitan subjects who traveled the world. By working with archival materials in the Harvard Theatre Collection, students peek behind the curtain to gain a backstage view. This letter from January 4, 1851, for example, is banal business correspondence—made extraordinary by the fact that it was penned by an antebellum African American genius whose work was international in scope. Ira Aldridge is largely forgotten today, but by touching something that he touched, we can feel an immediacy or even intimacy with a person who inspired audiences almost two centuries ago, and who can continue to inspire us today.

approx 9 L x 12 W (in)
MS Thr 467