Patty J. Malone
Born: 1855 Athens, AL
Born into slavery in 1855 she possessed a rich mezzo soprano voice. In 1877, she became a member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers She toured the U.S. and Europe with the singers covering a period of six and one-half years She died on Jan. 20, 1897, in Omaha, Neb. the death notice, in part, stated: "It is safe to say that no woman of her race ever sang in so many different countries of the world as Miss Patti J. Malone."
Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame
Fisk Jubilee Singers, c. 1880 (Patti Malone at far right)
Patti J. Malone was born in 1858, at Cedars Plantation in Athens, Alabama. She was best known as a mezzo-soprano vocalist.
Malone was born into slavery in antebellum Alabama. Her hometown was the scene of numerous clashes between Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War, as well as alleged atrocities committed against the civilian population by the former. Later in life, Malone recounted scars her mother received from their owners, as well as her anxiety when her mother helped secrete their owner from patrolling Union troops. After the war, Malone enrolled in the Trinity School, a school for the children of former slaves founded by the American Missionary Association in Athens. Malone’s enrollment at Trinity was not without cost or risk, because local residents refused to hire African-Americans who sent their children to the school. As a child, Malone was forced to work for her former owner’s family as a condition of her mother’s employment. Despite this, and considerable harassment and intimidation from white children in the community, she was able to pursue her education at Trinity. She is reported to have been so determined to secure an education, that she would attend school while so ill that she had to lie down for lessons while there.
After finishing her studies at Trinity, Malone moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where she enrolled at Fisk University, which had also been established by the American Missionary Association. There, she experienced a change that would shape the remainder of her life. At the time, Fisk was a new, struggling institution, without even its own permanent campus and buildings. As a response to this, the university had chosen nine of its students to form a musical touring group to raise funds for the fledgling school. The initial effort was an unexpected success, raising over $100,000.00. After the conclusion of this first fundraising tour, the university disbanded the troupe, but it reorganized itself as an independent group, and embarked on a second world tour. Malone had originally been recruited for Fisk by the original chaperone of the Jubilee Singers, Miss Wells, the principal at Trinity. Malone was selected to fill a vacancy in the group caused by the illness of one of the original members, and left Nashville to join the group in Germany in 1877. During Malone’s tenure in the group, she performed throughout Europe, Australia and New Zealand, including a command performance before German Emperor Wilhelm I.
Malone’s death from an unspecified malady, on January 20, 1897 in Omaha, Nebraska, brought accolades and notes from around the world. The Cleveland Gazette is reported to have recorded that “It is safe to say that no woman of her race ever sang in so many different countries of the world as Miss Patti J. Malone.” Her death was even noted in the press in New Zealand, where the Jubilee Singers had toured ten years earlier.
1^ a b c J.B.T. Marsh and F.J. Loudin, The Jubilee Singers and Their Songs (1892, reprint Dover 2003) 107
2^ “Church to Say 'Thanks' to Former Trinity Teachers,” The Decatur Daily, September 27 2007, p. B1
3^ a b Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff, Out of Sight: The Rise of African American Popular Music, 1889-1895 (University Press of Mississippi 2003) 3-6
4^ Marsh, 109
5^ Alabama Music Hall of Fame: Music News
6^ North Otago Times, April 14, 1897, p. 1
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