Roland Hayes, the brilliant tenor (listen to his voice HERE!) who became the first African-American man to earn international fame as a concert vocalist, photographed by Addison Scurlock in 1940. Born to former slaves in Curryville, Georgia in 1887, he attended Fisk University and briefly toured with the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Early in his career, he was turned down by talent managers because he was Black so, he invested in himself: He raised money and arranged and financed his own concert performances,which included Negro spirituals, lieder and arias by Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and Mozart. In 1942, Mr. Hayes’s wife, Helen and daughter, Afrika, sat in a whites-only area of a shoe store and were thrown out of the store. When Mr. Hayes defended his family, he was beaten and he and his wife were arrested - and the governor of Georgia was absolutely fine with it. The incident inspired Langston Hughes to compose the poem, Roland Hayes Beaten. Mr. Hayes would later teach at Boston University and would go on to celebrate more than 50 years on the concert stage before his death in 1977.
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