2020 Black History -Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones

By Theodore C. Marceau – J. Willis Sayre  Collection of Theatrical Photographs, Public Domain, 

Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones, “I prefer Madame Jones.”

Dubbed her “the Black Patti” after Adelina Patti, an epithet that Jones disliked, preferring Madame Jones.  She later told a reporter that the name “rather annoys me… 

“I am afraid people will think I consider myself equal to Patti herself. I assure you I don’t think so, but I have a voice, and I am striving to win the favor of the public by honest merit and hard work. “I prefer Madame Jones.””

Sissieretta Jones was a world-famous soprano who, in June 1892, became the first African American to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City, New York. Touring internationally in the late 1800s and early 1900s, she sang both classical opera and performed in musical comedies with her own troupe.

The Start of it all

After moving with her family to Rhode Island when she was six, Sissieretta began singing in the church choir, which was directed by her father. When only fourteen, she married David Richard Jones, who became her first manager. Later, she formally studied voice at the Providence Academy of Music, the New England Conservatory, and the Boston (Massachusetts) Conservatory.

Sissieretta’s Career Accomplishments

Following her New York City debut on April 5, 1888, in Steinway Hall, she was nicknamed “the Black Patti” after being compared to the Italian prima donna Adelina Patti, well-known at the time. The nickname stayed with her throughout her 30-plus year career, although she preferred to be called Madame Jones.

  • During the 1880s and 1890s, Jones performed at Madison Square Garden, Boston’s Music Hall, and the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.

  • She performed for presidents and royalty. In February 1892 at the White House for President Benjamin Harrison, Presidents Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt. She also performed before the British Royal Family.

  • Jones’s international tours took her to the Caribbean, South America, Australia, India, and Southern Africa as well as London, Paris (France), Berlin (Germany), Milan, Munich, and St. Petersburg (Russia). By 1895 Jones had become the most well known and highly paid African American performer of her day.


Sissieretta was loyal to her mother, who, in 1915, became ill, and Sissieretta retired to take care of her mother and her two adopted children.

End of life

In spite of her many years of high earnings, toward the end of her life, Jones needed to rely on financial assistance from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Sissieretta Jones died of cancer on June 24, 1933, at the Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.


The above information is taken from the following links:


Darlene J. Harris does not take credit for any of the above information; any modifications are only for the purpose of this project.

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