In 1828, in the age of slavery, Aldridge became Manager of the Coventry Theatre – the first black person ever to run a British theatre. His performances and the plays he presented led the city to petition Parliament to abolish slavery. He was only 20.
Ira Aldridge broke through the racial barriers. He came to England to escape racism in America (he had been savagely beaten for daring to act in Shakespeare) only to encounter prejudice once again. But he persevered against all odds, performed for the crowned heads of Europe, and has become an inspirational figure for artists from Paul Robeson to Adrian Lester.