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1809 - MARCH 31, 1896

Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield—nicknamed by the press and public as “The Black Swan” (in comparison to the beloved Jenny Lind, known as “The Swedish Nightingale”)—was one of the first publicly acclaimed, professional African American classical musicians in the United States. Born into slavery in Mississippi, she was an infant when the Quaker widow of her white owner emancipated her slaves and returned most of them to Liberia. Greenfield remained to be raised in Philadelphia, where she was able to study music. In 1853, following her New York City debut to an all-white audience at the Metropolitan Hall, she traveled to London and became the first African American artist to give a command performance for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace. Upon her return to the U.S., Greenfield did concert tours, founded a music studio, and formed an opera troupe with Thomas Bowers, an acclaimed African American tenor. Throughout her career, Greenfield performed bel canto opera, as well as American parlor songs of the period, ballads from Great Britain, hymns, and spirituals.

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