A Story By Matt Jonas
Elizabeth Taylor was born as a slave on July 13, 1817, in Natchez, Mississippi. She lived to be fifty-eight years old- she died on March 31, 1876, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the nearly six decades she spent on this earth, Taylor left Mississippi as a child, and was moved to Philadelphia when her female master, who was a Quaker, relocated up north.
Fortunately for Taylor, her master joined an organization called the “Society of Friends”. It was at this time that Taylor became a freed African-American. However, she decided to stay with her former owner, and she adopted her surname too. It was at that time that the girl became, “Elizabeth Taylor-Greenfield.” Mrs. Greenfield was kind to the girl throughout her life. She made sure that she obtained a good education. She also encouraged the young Taylor-Greenfield to develop her musical abilities.
Even after Mrs. Greenfield passed away in 1845, Taylor-Greenfield kept studying music. She finally decided to become a singer.
Just six years later, Elizabeth Taylor-Greenfield performed publicly in a Buffalo, New York concert. Her performance was at the Buffalo Musical Association at Corinthian Hall. After that, she sang for government officials and other luminaries in Boston and New York. Taylor-Greenfield also toured and performed concerts from Boston, Massachusetts to Chicago, Illinois during the next year or so.
Another benefit concert that was held in Buffalo raised money so the young singer could make a trip to Europe. She wanted to continue her musical studies there. She was abetted by Lord Shaftesbury, Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Duchess of Sutherland. The latter became Taylor-Greenfield’s sponsor.
She arrived in London and gave her first singing performance in May of 1853. In 1854, a highlight of Taylor-Greenfield’s singing career came to be. She was given the honor of being allowed to sing for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace in England. The singer subsequently became a quite popular in Great Britain.
Now, you may be wondering what made the African-American singer named Elizabeth Taylor-Greenfield so popular. Her personal appearance, from being raised by her Quaker owner, was plain and unassuming. Quite simply, it was her beautiful singing talent. Her singing voice was full and strong. Seemingly without effort, she could reach twenty-seven different musical notes.
During Elizabeth Taylor-Greenfield’s career, she gained quite a following of fans. In fact, she was given the nickname, “the Black Swan.” In spite of this popularity, she ran out of money to continue to pay for her musical training. She returned to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and became a singing teacher. Though she did perform a concert from time to time. Even after her death, the talent and popularity of Elizabeth Taylor-Greenfield was not forgotten. In May of 1921, two men named “Harry Pace and W.C. Handy” founded a music label in New York. The company was named the , “Pace Phonograph Corporation.”
Just two years later, the name was changed to “Black Swan Records.” The name was in honor of the African-American singer, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield. It’s interesting to note that Black Swan Records was the very first American record producer to be owned and implemented by African Americans. In 1924, the Black Swan company was bought by Paramount Records. The company was then closed down.