Florence Cole-Talbert was a pioneer black concert and operatic soprano.
Florence Cole was born in Detroit in 1890 both of her parents, Sadie Chandler Cole and Thomas A. Cole, were musicians. Sadie was a talented mezzo-soprano who had toured extensively with the ‘Fisk Jubilee Singers’, while Thomas was an excellent basso. When she was 8 years old, her parents moved to Los Angeles, CA. In 1916, Cole graduated from the Chicago Music College, where she was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, even composing the sorority’s national hymn.
Cole-Talbert made her professional debut at New York’s Aeolian Hall. Florence married pianist-music director Wendell P. Talbert, and in 1924, she appeared in Europe where she was the first Black person to sing a fully staged Aida, with an “all-White” European opera company. Widely acclaimed for her performance, she returned to the United States in 1927.
Cole-Talbert organized numerous organization, including the Memphis Music Association, she wrote articles for the Tri-State Defender and gave recitals to raise money for schools and churches. She later taught music at Tuskegee, Fisk and Rust colleges, and was the first Black director of the voice department at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
Despite rigid racial barriers, she found a high place in the music and entertainment fields. Florence Cole-Talbert died on April 3, 1961, in Memphis, Tennessee, she was 70.
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