The Black Swan

In honor of Black Music Month it is important to honor the trailblazers that laid the foundation for the artists we know and love today. Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield was an African American concert singer who came to prominence in the 19th century. She was dubbed as "The Black Swan." She was born in Natchez, Mississippi she was taken to Philadelphia, PA by a Quaker who had freed her slaves. She continued to work as a mistress for the woman that brought her to the North, she also worked as her maid and companion. In addition to her work for the mistress she provided entertainment for the guests of her elderly.

When the mistress died, Elizabeth supported herself by giving public and private performances and she would gain recognition in the Northeast region of the United States for her hard work. In 1853, she traveled abroad in Europe for performances in England, Scotland, and Ireland. She introduced herself to Harriet Beecher Stowe and with the assistance of Stowe helped her book engagements for "English gentry." Prior to returning to the United States she sang at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria. 

Upon returning to the United States she traveled throughout the country raising funds for various "colored" aged and orphan societies.

Edward T & Janet W. James, eds. Notable American Women: 1607-1950; A Biographical Dictionary Vol. II ( Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), pp.87-89


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