Ira Aldridge was born around 1805. His place of birth has been listed as Africa but more often Bel Air, Maryland. He was apprenticed as a carpenter under a German immigrant. Aldridge learned carpentry as well as German. Because of the lack of schools for African-Americans in Maryland, Aldridge moved to New York and attended the African Free School and Schenectady College. It was at Schenectady that Aldridge became interested in acting. He raised money and moved to Glasgow, Scotland. He studied at the University of Glasgow, developing voice projection and dramatic skills. Aldridge was so gifted that by 1837 he was drawing crowds to see him portray Shakespearian roles. Aldridge was such a great actor that he performed for the president of the U.S., Queen Victoria and the Archduch of Chambory. He received many awards and was heavily decorated. Aldridge was even the first African-American to become a knight. He married twice and was divorced once. Aldridge died in Poland in 1867. At the Shakespearean Memorial Theatre in Stratford-On-Avon, England, a chair is dedicated to the memory of Ira Aldridge.
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