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APRIL 16, 1864 - DECEMBER 1, 1906

In her time, Flora Batson compared favorably to the modern version of Marie Selika Williams and Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones. She began her professional career when she was 13 years old and in quick progression, she sang with Storer College in Harper’s Ferry (a Historically Black College and University), with J.W. Hamilton’s Lecture Bureau for the People’s Church of Boston, and with Red Path’s Lecture and Lyceum Bureau. Early in her career, Batson came to be known as the “Double-Voiced Queen of Song” in reference to her soprano-baritone range. While she occasionally sang excerpts from operas, her signature musical genre was the ballad, and she often sang “The Last Rose of Summer,” “The Cows Are in the Corn,” and “The Ship of Fire.” Not only did her concerts end with thunderous applause but also often the audience presented her with diamonds, tiaras, and other jewelry. As an internationally recognized concert singer of the nineteenth century, Batson sang “Six Feet of Earth Makes Us All One Size” for ninety-plus consecutive nights. During this period, she caught the attention of John G. Bergen, the white manager of the all-Black Bergen Star Concert Company. She married Bergen in 1887, and their controversial interracial marriage made international tabloid headlines and brought fame and critical acclaim to his company as well as to Madame Batson. Bergen passed away in 1896, and Batson toured with the African American basso Gerard Millar, whom she later married. Batson was highly regarded internationally and performed for world leaders including Pope Leo XIII, Queen Victoria of England, and Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii. As vaudeville comedy sketches came into popularity, however, Batson’s skills as a concert soloist were in less demand. Her last concert was at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia on November 29, 1906. Only two days later Flora Batson died suddenly in Philadelphia on December 1, 1906. Video profiles of Flora Batson are in the public domain and can be found on YouTube.

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