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Blue plaque unveiled to commemorate Ira Aldridge

A new blue plaque was unveiled today in the Precinct for Ira Aldridge, a black actor and anti slavery activist who came to Coventry in 1828.  He was the manager of Coventry's Theatre Royal at the age of 21. He was a African American who had come to Europe to act. He was the first black actor to play Othello, and only two months after he was introduced to Midland audiences. This was still at the time of slavery which was still legal in British colonies and the USA. The Coventry Herald newspaper said of his performance - "his display of intellectual power .... gives the negative to those physiologists who argue for the inferiority of dark races". He played in many cities with strong Abolitionist sympathies.

Aldridge toured Continental Europe, especially in Germany where he was told by a journalist that "he understands like no other how to portray... the full bitterness the Jew feels". Aldridge wrote an open letter to the people of Coventry when he came to the city. He said he "might have feared that, unknown and unfriended, he had little claim to public notice - did he did not feel that being a foreigner and a stranger are universal passports to British sympathy".

In Shakespeare's 'The Book of Sir Thomas More', Thomas More condemning a mob's intolerance and compelling them through his eloquence to understand the plight of refugees and the "wretched stranger". Actors who play Shakespeare's characters, like Ira Aldridge, 'Shakespeare' is a world of outsiders.

The original Theatre Royal he managed and worked in is no more and would have been in the city precinct area.

Unveiling of plaque at the Belgrade Theatre

Coventry’s Lord Mayor, Tony Skipper unveils the plaque on Thursday 3rd August 2017 and the Guest of Honour was the actor Earl Cameron CBE, who will shortly be celebrating his 100th Birthday (on 7th August 2017).

Interestingly he was taught by Ira’s daughter Amanda.

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