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Blind Tom, The Black Pianist-Composer: Continually  Enslaved
Geneva Handy Southall
Scarecrow Press (2002)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 FI-YER!, A Century of African American Song
That Welcome Day
Thomas Greene Bethune, aka
Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins
William Brown, tenor
Ann Sears, piano
Troy 329 (1999)

 

 

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           

An Anthropologist On Mars:
Seven Paradoxical Tales

Oliver Sacks
Vintage Books USA (1996)

 

Home -> Musicians -> Wiggins, Thomas "Blind Tom"

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Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins (1849-1908)

African American Pianist and Composer

A Blind And Autistic Slave Was A Musical Genius


Audio Sample:  John Davis Plays Blind Tom; John Davis, Piano; Newport Classic 85660 (1999)  The Rainstorm

1 Birth
Thomas Greene Wiggins was born on the Wiley Edward Jones plantation in Harris County, Georgia on May 25, 1849.  He came into the world blind and autistic but a musical genius with a phenomenal memory. Even after Emancipation, his former owners kept him, in the words of the late author Geneva Handy Southall, "Continually Enslaved".  His many concerts and the sale of his sheet music earned fabulous sums of money.  Nearly all of it went to his owners and their heirs. Southall's book is her third volume on Thomas Wiggins. It is based on a quarter century of vigorous academic research into all aspects of his life and career, and is the primary source for this Web page.

2 Slave Auction
Professor Southall recounts that young Tom "was 'thrown in' as a bargain" when his parents and two brothers were sold at a slave auction in 1850:

Blind from birth, he was "thrown in" as a bargain when Colonel James Neil Bethune, a highly respected Columbus, Georgia lawyer, and newspaper editor purchased his parents, Charity and Mingo Wiggins, and two of his brothers at a slave auction in fall 1850. From infancy Tom manifested an extraordinary fondness for the musical sounds he heard in the Big House and had shown exceptional retentive skills.  According to most accounts, Tom demonstrated his aptitude for music before his fourth birthday, having slipped unnoticed to the piano and picked out several tunes he had heard played by the Bethune daughters, all of whom were accomplished musicians.

3 First Compositions
Southall writes that the entire Bethune family treated Tom as a sort of "household pet", teaching him to match objects to their names, but his first music teacher was one of the daughters, Mary Bethune:

Mary Bethune became his piano teacher. Because she had studied with Professor George W. Chase, the highly respected New York-trained pianist- composer-conductor, one can assume that Tom received a solid theoretical and technical musical foundation.

Soon after, his love of music and music-making led him to write original songs and imitate sounds of nature and other musical instruments on the piano.

Before he was six years old, Tom was being shown off to the Bethune family's neighbors.

4 Concert at Age 8
Southall describes the response to Tom's first public concert, at age 8, in Columbus, Georgia:

Following his first public concert at Columbus' Temperance Hall on October 7, 1857, Tom was taken to Atlanta, Macon, and Athens, where the editor of Athens Southern Watchman  described his performance at the University of Georgia as the "most remarkable ever witnessed in Athens, one that would put to blush many a professor of music."

5 Hired Out
The wife of James Bethune died of "pulmonary disease", according to an obituary in the Columbus Daily Sun  on May 22, 1858.  Mary Bethune began looking after her younger siblings.  Southall recounts:

Shortly thereafter, Tom became a hired-out slave musician to Perry Oliver, a Savannah tobacco planter, under a three-year contractual agreement with Colonel Bethune, who was paid $15,000 for the right to exhibit Tom in other parts of the country.  After several concerts in Savannah, Perry Oliver began to exhibit Tom in other Southern and pro-slavery states as the "Musical Prodigy of the Age: a Plantation  Negro Boy."

Southall continues that by 1861 Tom was giving prestigious performances such as one in Washington, D.C. for the first Japanese diplomats to visit the United States. As another example of his growing fame, she points out:

In addition, his Baltimore concerts of July 1860 had so impressed the famous piano manufacturer, William Knabe, that he gave the ten-year-old slave an elaborately carved rosewood grand piano with a silver plate bearing the inscription "a tribute to Genius."  He was also a published composer by this time, his Oliver Galop  and Virginia Polka having been published by the prestigious Oliver Ditson publishing firm in 1860.

6 Confederate Aid
At the start of the Civil War, Oliver Perry quickly brought Tom back to Georgia.  Ironically, Tom's performances began to benefit the Confederacy. Southall writes:

By October 1862 Tom was back with the Bethunes who continued to use his talents for the pro-slavery cause.  Since the May 10, 1864, Columbus Daily Sun announced that Blind Tom had "given $5,000 from his recently completed three month tour to benevolent causes," it is evident that Tom's concert schedule was both profitable and exhaustive. Among the works performed on those programs was his own programmatic piece, titled Battle of Manassas, written after he heard one of Colonel Bethune's sons (then a member of the Second Georgia Regiment) describe that famous Confederate victory.  Inasmuch as a report in the December 17, 1861, Atlanta Southern Confederacy noted Tom's playing of Dixie  with one hand, Yankee Doodle  with the other while singing The Girl I Left Behind Me  at the same time, it is apparent that Tom had been exposed to music and discussions connected with the Civil War from its outset.

7 Indenture Contract
James Bethune protected himself against the possiblity of a Union victory in the Civil War by convincing Mingo and Charity Wiggins to sign an indenture agreement for Tom's services, on May 30, 1864, for a period of five years. Bethune promised to provide Tom's parents with "a good home and subsistence and $500 a year". The 16-year-old performer himself was assured "$20 per month and two percent of the net proceeds of his services".  The first legal challenge to the indenture was filed in July, 1865 by a Black business man named Tabbs Gross, during an engagement Tom had in Indiana, claiming that he had a bill-of-sale for Tom's services.  James Bethune and his two sons quickly left the state with Wiggins, but Gross followed them to Cincinnati and filed a Writ of Habeus Corpus against them. Professor Southall continues the story:

As was revealed in my first book of the Blind Tom series (Minneapolis: Challenge Productions, Inc., 1979), this historic "guardianship trial," which was held before Judge Woodruff of the Hamilton County Probate Court, had both political and racial overtones, and ended with the judge's decision to allow Bethune, an ex-slave owner, to keep Tom in a "neo-chattel" relationship.  Inasmuch as the guardianship agreement permitted the Bethunes to receive ninety percent of Tom's earnings with nothing to guarantee that they would not expropriate the ten percent promised to Tom and his parents, the trial offered one more example of how ex-slave owners were able to re-enslave their slaves, the Emancipation Proclamation notwithstanding.

In the July 25th, 1865, Cincinnati Enquirer,  the editor, speaking to the humane aspects of the decision, asked: "why is Tom compelled to support Bethune and his two able-bodied sons who, fresh from the ranks of treason, are making the tour of the North with abundant leisure and purses well filled by the talents of what they would have us believe, an idiot?  Why don't they go to work?

8 Repertory at Age 16
The biographer gives a detailed account of the classical music repertory Tom had mastered by age 16, and of his many phenomenal skills as a singer, pianist and orator:

Though Tom was only sixteen at the time of the trial, his repertory included many of the most technically and musically demanding works of Bach, Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven, Thalberg, and other European masters. (See p. 43). Like other pianists of that time, he demonstrated his improvisational and theoretical skills by performing variations and fantasies on operatic airs and popular ballads of the day. Other astonishing feats included hisalleged ability to perform difficult selections almost flawlessly after one hearing, sing and recite poetry and prose in several languages, duplicate phonetically lengthy
orations by noted statesmen, and reproduce sounds of nature, machines, and musical instruments on the piano. Being possessed of a rich baritone voice, Tom also included original and sentimental songs by such English songwriters as Henry Russell and Henry Bishop in his concerts.

9 Music Tutor
The biographer reports that as the legal proceedings dragged on, attorneys for both parties agreed that Tom could continue to travel and make concert appearances in the interim.  The notoriety generated by the trial helped draw audiences to Tom's concerts in various cities in Ohio.  Promotional material regularly claimed that Tom was untaught; in fact he traveled with a high-paid tutor who was a Professor of Music:

Despite the fact that Professor W. P. Howard, an Atlanta music teacher, was accompanying the Bethunes as Tom's music tutor for what was then an exorbitant salary of $200 a month plus travel expenses, Tom was still being promoted as a "natural untaught" pianist. Obviously the Bethunes had decided to retain the characterization of Tom as an "idiot" whose "incomprehensible creative and retentive powers" were the result of some "unexplained satanic gifts" as a promotional gimmick.

10 Philadelphia
Professor Southall writes that the city of Philadelphia presented special challenges for Tom's managers. At the end of the Civil War, Philadelphia had a Musical Fund Society and an Academy of Music. Each had a large concert hall, regular programs of opera and classical music, and a sophisticated audience. The author continues:

Added to these aspects, Tom was being presented in a city that was then regarded as the cultural and intellectual capital of Black America, the city where several Black musicians had already achieved international acclaim.  It was, after all, Frank Johnson, a Black Philadelphian, who had in December 1838, introduced thousands of Philadelphians to the Parisian-style Promenade Concerts. These concerts, which were advertised as "Musical Soirees," took place after Frank Johnson had returned with his famous all-Black band and orchestra from a successful tour in England, followed by an extended concert tour in several northern and eastern cities in the United States.

After first failing to attract professional musicians to hear him at the Concert Hall, the Bethunes scheduled an invitational concert for prominent Philadelphia musicians and scientists. That event won a signed endorsement from those in attendance, attracting such large audiences to subsequent performances in the city that Tom's engagement was increased from one week to four.

11 European Tour
The Bethunes used a subsequent European tour to obtain testimonials from prominent classical composers.  Southall recounts:

After a second four-week concert engagement at New York's Irving Hall (April, 1866), Tom was taken to Europe where he was continuously subjected to rigorous tests by noted musicians like Ignaz Moscheles and Charles Halle - whose testimonial letters were published by the Bethunes in a pamphlet, The Marvelous Musical Prodigy Blind Tom.

12 $50,000 Per Year
By 1868 the Bethunes were living on a Warrenton, Virginia farm they called Elway.  Wiggins spent his Summers there, between concert tours around the U.S. and in Canada, with John G. Bethune serving as his manager.  Professor Southall continues:

On July 25, 1870, John Bethune had himself appointed Tom's legal guardian in a Virginia Probate Court, thereby negating the 1865 Indentureship Agreement. By now the Bethunes were realizing $50,000 yearly from Tom's concerts.

For nine years, Tom lived in New York, since his manager had married a Mrs. Eliza Stutzback, owner of the boardinghouse where they stayed. In the summers Tom studied with Professor Joseph Poznanski, who also wrote down many of Tom's compositions. When John G. Bethune was killed (February 16, 1884) trying to board a train, General Bethune had himself legally appointed Tom's guardian and continued the concert tours.

13 Mother Sues
Southall explains that John G. Bethune's marriage ended before his death, leading to a legal contest for control of Wiggins and for the money generated by Tom's performances since 1865:

A three year court battle between him and Eliza Bethune, (who had divorced John Bethune before the accident) for Tom ended July 31, 1887, when the court granted custody to the widow.  The custody battle began on July 9, 1885, when Tom's mother, Charity Wiggins, filed a petition in theUnited States Circuit Court, Alexandria, Virginia, for the return of her son.

Charity Wiggins did not deny that she and Tom's father (the late Mingo Wiggins) had agreed "with Bethune that he should have Tom for five years, at the end of which he would attain his majority." Her concern was that "without
their consent and without giving them notice they had Tom adjudged to be a lunatic, with the General's son appointed
as the committe of his person, then put him on exhibition as a pianist." Her suit was therefore against General Bethune for the "services of her son and an accounting of the profits of the exhibitions since 1865."

14 Change of Custody
Professor Southall writes that James N. Bethune finally lost custody of Thomas Wiggins to Eliza Bethune, as requested by Charity Wiggins:

On July 31, 1887, the New York Times reported that Judge Bond passed an order the previous day in Baltimore which
"took Blind Tom out of General Bethune's custody." It was reported that:

"James N. Bethune, who has kept Blind Tom in his possession since the days of slavery, should deliver him to the United States marshal on August 16 at Alexandria, Va., and that the marshal shall deliver him safely into the hands of Eliza Bethune, who was appointed Tom's Committee by the Supreme Court of New York, and also that General Bethune pay over $7,000 to the order of Court for the credit of Blind Tom as his earnings.

The New York Times  reported on August 18, 1887 that Tom had arrived in New York and was again living at 7 St. Mark's Place, where he had lived for seven years with John G. Bethune.  The change in custody appeared to be a smooth one, because Wiggins opened an engagement at Association Hall in New York City on September 26, 1887. Southall reports that by the following year Wiggins was again composing music for publication as well:

Mrs. Bethune was also getting some monetary rewards from Tom's creative talents given the 1888 copyright dates on three works published by the Oliver Ditson Music Company, namely: his Columbus March, Blind Tom's Mazurka  and When This Cruel War is Over.

15 Frequent Travel
His new manager added Sunday performances to Wiggins' busy concert schedule, and for the first time allowed him to appear on the same concert bill as other musicians. For years after obtaining custody, she was the defendant in lawsuits seeking $3,000 in unpaid fees due to a prior attorney.  One such suit led to the discosure that by 1892 Eliza Bethune had married Albrecht Lerche, the attorney who had won her custody of Wiggins.  Together they oversaw a life of near-constant travel and performances for him.

16 $15 for Mother
In October of 1900 a reporter named W. C. Woodall interviewed Charity Wiggins for a paper in Columbus, Georgia, the Columbus Enquirer, which published a picture of her in front of the home in which she was living. Southall writes:

According to Woodall, Tom's mother was living with one of her daughters and in good health. The writer found it an interesting fact that "of the many thousands of dollars made through the genius of her blind son, she had received a comparatively small amount." He reported that she had recently received "fifteen dollars from the manager of Blind Tom, which the humble household appreciated."

At the time of the interview several of Tom's siblings were living in Columbus as cooks, washer women and day laborers at 50 cents a day; one of them was a church janitor.

At the time of the interview Tom's mother had not seen her son for many years and seemed to "deeply resent the separation." She said "they stole him (Tom) from me. When I was in New York I signed away my rights."

According to the December 26, 1902, Professional World, Tom's mother died in Alabama and was buried in Columbus, Georgia; she was 105 years old.

17 John Davis CD
The pianist John Davis recorded the first commercial CD of music composed by Thomas Wiggins, John Davis Plays Blind Tom, Newport Classic 85660 (1999).

 

The CD's titles are:

                    Cyclone Galop  (6:12)
                    The
Rainstorm  (4:29)
                    Sewing Song: Imitation of a Sewing Machine
  (7:01)
                    Battle of Manassas  (7:50)
                    Improvisation on "When This Cruel War Is Over"
(7:21)
                    Wellenklänge - Voice of the Waves 
(6:41)
                    Oliver Galop  (1:12)
                    Virginia Polka
  (3:04)
                    Water in the Moonlight
  (3:00)
                    Grand March Resurrection
  (4:49)
                    Vivo Galop
  (2:06)
                    Daylight
  (4:06)
                    March Timpani
  (5:53)
                    Reve Charmant - Nocturne
  (6:47)

Davis writes in the liner notes:

Eventually, Blind Tom's repertoire grew to an astounding seven thousand established works, including those of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Liszt, not to mention over a hundred composed by himself.

Davis stresses that these and other compositions of Wiggins "...employ a host of uniquely evocative images..." from Nature, musical instruments and machinery.

18 Death
Prof. Southall reports that Tom's last public appearances appear to have been those of April 17-22, 1905 in Boston. She adds that the Boston Evening Transcript  left no doubt in its subsequent review that the famed pianist was "still celebrated" at the conclusion of his long career. Little was heard of him in the following two years. He died on June 13, 1908. The author gives the cause of death and the funeral arrangements:

Although he died at age 59 of cerebral apoplexy at the home of Mrs. Eliza Bethune Lerche in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he lived for several years, his body was taken to the funeral chapel of Frank E. Campbell Company in New York.

Lengthy obituaries appeared in newspapers around the country, but it was generally left to Black newspapers to point out that Thomas Wiggins, this marvelously gifted pianist and composer, was exploited all his life.  They lamented that first slave owners and then managers reaped riches from Tom's talents while Tom lived and died penniless, and while his mother and siblings lived in poverty.

19 Dr. Oliver Sacks
The liner notes of John Davis Plays Blind Tom  include an essay by the noted neurologist and author Oliver Sacks. It is excerpted from the doctor's book An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales,  first published in 1995 by Alfred A. Knopf and released in paperback the following year by Vintage Books USA. Dr. Sacks explains autism and his belief that Wiggins was an autistic savant. He first repeats contemporary accounts of Tom's playing of the piano, including his unusual movements and expressions, before observing:

Although Tom was usually called an idiot or imbecile, such posturing and stereotypies are more characteristic of autism - but autism was only identified in the 1940s and was not a term, or even a concept, in the 1860s.

Autism, clearly, is a condition that has always existed, affecting occasional individuals in every period and culture.

It was medically described, almost simultaneously, in the 1940s, by both Leo Kanner in Baltimore and Hans Asperger in Vienna. Both of them, independently, named it "autism."

Both emphasized "aloneness," mental aloneness, as the cardinal feature of autism; this, indeed, was why they called it autism. 

Singular talents, usually emerging at a very early age and developing with startling speed, appear in about 10 percent of the autistic (and in a smaller number of the retarded - though many savants are both autistic and retarded).

 

20 Hush
In 2002 an Atlanta theater company, 7 Stages, presented the world premiere of a play entitled Hush: Composing Blind Tom Wiggins. The author is Robert Earl Price, a member of the theater company.  Wendell Brock reviewed it for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Feb. 6, 2002:

The Verdict: The most important Atlanta stage production of the new century, it demands that we look at, and listen to, the legacy of Blind Tom Wiggins.

After being shunted away for nearly a century, Blind Tom Wiggins - the Georgia-born slave and 19th century piano savant - is back.

Directed by 7 Stages artistic director Del Hamilton, using Davis' recorded music and starring the astonishingly gifted Anthony Tatmon as Tom, "Hush" is a celebration of the fecund imagination of Price and the haunting compositions of Wiggins.

Tatmon plays up Blind Tom's idiosyncracies, the fractured speech, the tricks of mimicry and memory, his character's grotesqueries. But to his credit, he also makes his character human - and humorous (Tom hates butter beans, he says "cabbage stinks," but he loves cake). Tatmon gives a brilliant, startling and unsettling performance.

It's harrowing to see Tom nearly fed to the hogs as a baby, to see his father (Neal Hazard) almost get his foot hacked off because he has the "running-away sickness" and to hear his mother (Shontell Thrash) recount the way her boy spoke her name so tenderly ("Maa-muh"). Her answer was always: Hush.

The intial run of Hush  in the home theater of 7 Stages was just the beginning for the work.  An article in TransatlanticJournal.com in 2004 tells of subsequent performances both on tour and at the Martin Luther King Historical Site:

HUSH: Composing Blind Tom Wiggins remains one of 7 Stages' most recent and beloved highlights, returning to the 7 Stages mainstage a year after its world premiere by popular demand and touring throughout the region. It appeared as part of the Alliance Theatre's City Series as well as, in abridged form, at the Martin Luther King Historical Site throughout the summer of 2003.

21 Works
Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma

Collection:
Plantation melodies as sung by Blind Tom, with his original accompaniments, for voice & piano. n.p.: T[homas?] G[reene?] Bethune, 1881.  1. Waggin’ up Zion's hill; 2. That welcome day; 3. Come along, Moses; 4. Them golden slippers.

Specimens of Blind Tom's vocal compositions. n.p.: c1867. 4 p. I wish dear Jodie would come home; The man who mashed his hand; The man who snatched the cornet out of his hand; ; The man who sprained his knee; Mother, wilt thou come and cure me?.  Text: Blind Tom.  Library: Library of Congress.

Individual titles:
CD: William Brown, tenor; Ann Sears, piano.  Albany TROY (1999; Fi-yer!; A century of African-American song).

Academy schottische, for piano. n.p.: W. P. Howard, 1864.

Amazon march, for piano.

Blind Tom's march, for piano. Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1851.

----- Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1860. Dedication: Mary Bethune. Also published in 1883?

----- Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1888. 5p. Library: Library of Congress.

----- Chicago: S. Brainard's Sons, 1894. 12p. Library: Library of Congress.

----- New York: S. Brainard's Sons, 1913. 11p. Library: Library of Congress.

Blind Tom's mazurka, for piano, by J. C. Beckel [pseud.], rev. by L.K. Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1888. 5p. Library: Library of Congress.

Blind Tom's waltz, op. 2, for piano. Philadelphia: J. Marsh, 1865. 5p. Library: Library of Congress.

----- Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1888, rev. by L. K. 5p.  Library: Library of Congress.

----- Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1892. 5p.  Library: Library of Congress.

Cascades, for piano.

Columbus march, for piano, rev. by L. K. Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1888. 5p. Library: Library of Congress.

Concert hall polka, for piano. Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1888.

Concert Waltzer, for piano (1882).

AC: Geneva H. Southall, piano. Challenge Productions CP-8206 (1982).

Cyclone galop, for piano (ca. 1887). New York: William E. Ashmall, 1887. 7p. Duration: 6:12. Library: Library of Congress.

CD: John Davis, piano. Newport Classics LC 8554 (1999, John Davis plays Blind Tom).

Daylight; a musical expression, for piano (1866). Chicago: Root & Cady, 1866. 5p. Dedication: H. L. Benham. Library: Library of Congress.

----- Chicago: S. Brainard's Sons, 1866.

AC: Geneva H. Southall, piano. Challenge Productions CP-8206 (1982).

CD: John Davis, piano. Newport Classics LC 8554 (1999, John Davis plays Blind Tom).

Delta Kappa march, for piano (by 1880).

General Howard’s march, for piano. Philadelphia: J. M. March, 1865.

General Ripley's march, for piano.

Grand march de concert, for piano.

Grand march resurrection, for piano (by 1901). Highlands NJ: I. Bethune; Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1901. 5p. Duration: 4:49. Library: Library of Congress.

CD: John Davis, piano. Newport Classics LC 8554 (1999, John Davis plays Blind Tom).

----- New York: F. Blume, 1887. 11p. Library: Library of Congress.

March timpani, for piano (1880), by Prof. W. F. Raymond [pseud.]. New York: F. Blume, 1880. 11p. Dedication: Joseph Poznanski. Duration: 5:53.

----- New York: F. Blume, 1887. 11p. Library: Library of Congress.

AC: Geneva H. Southall, piano. Challenge Productions CP-8206 (1982).

CD: John Davis, piano. Newport Classics LC 8554 (1999, John Davis plays Blind Tom).

March lanpier polka, for piano. New York: F. Bllume, 1887.

Masonic grand march, for piano.

Military march, for piano or organ, by C. T. Messengale [pseud.]. Bucyrus OH: Guckert Music, 1889. 9p. Library: Library of Congress.

Oliver galop, for piano (1859). Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1860. Duration: 1:12. Library: Library of Congress.

----- New York: H. Waters, 1860. 4p. Library: Library of Congress.

CD: John Davis, piano. Newport Classics LC 8554 (1999, John Davis plays Blind Tom).

LP: Alan Mandel, piano. Desto 6445/7 (1975).

LP: Ruth Norman, piano. Opus One 39 (ca. 1978).

Rêve charmant; nocturne, for piano (1881). New York: J. G. Bethune, 1881. Library: Library of Congress.

----- Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1888. 10p. Dedication: William Steinway. Duration: 6:47.

AC: Geneva H. Southall, piano. Challenge Productions CP-8206 (1982).

CD: John Davis, piano. Newport Classics LC 8554 (1999, John Davis plays Blind Tom).

Sewing song; imitation of the sewing machine, for piano (1888). New York: William A. Pond, 1888. 11p. Duration: 7:01. Library: Library of Congress.

AC: Geneva H. Southall, piano. Challenge Productions CP-8206 (1982).

CD: John Davis, piano. Newport Classics LC 8554 (1999, John Davis plays Blind Tom).

Symphony based on Blind Tom's theme, for piano. New York: Cosmopolitan Music, 1973.

That welcome day, for voice & piano. [n.p.?] 1881.

AC: Oral Moses, bass; Ann Sears, piano. (Art songs and spirituals by Black Americans).

The battle of Manassas, for piano (1866). Chicago: Root & Cady, 1866. 11p. Duration: 7:50. Library: Library of Congress.

----- Chapel Hill: Hinshaw Music (Piano music in 19th century America, ed. by Maurice Hinson).

----- Cleveland: S. Brainard's Sons, 1884. 11p. Library: Library of Congress.

----- New York: Brainard & Son, 1913, ed. by de Roode.

CD: John Davis, piano. Newport Classics LC 8554 (1999, John Davis plays Blind Tom).

LP: E. Power Biggs, organ (Fisk Organ, Old West Church, Boston).Columbia M-34129 (Two centuries of heroic music in America, 1976) [abbreviated].

The man who got the cinder in his eye, for medium voice & piano. Cleveland: Root and Cady, 1866.

The music box, for piano.

The music boy Bounjo, for piano.

AC: Geneva Southall, piano. Challenge Productions CP-8206 (1982)

The rainstorm, op. 6, for piano (1854). New York: J. L. Peters, 1865.

----- Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1892, 1888. Rev. by L. K. Duration: 4:29. Library: Library of Congress.

AC: Geneva Southall, piano. Challenge Productions CP-8206 (1982) \.

CD: John Davis, piano. Newport Classics LC 8554 (1999, John Davis plays Blind Tom).

The reaper, for piano (after 1865). Dedicated to one of Gen. Bethune’s daughters.

Virginia polka, by Tom, the blind Negro boy pianist, only 10 years old, for piano. (1860). New York: Horace Waters, 1860. 4p. Dedicated: Miss Martha McCon Reese, of Georgia [a daughter of Gen. Bethune?]. Library: Duke, Library of Congress, Spingarn.

----- Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1860. Library: Library of Congress.

AC: Geneva Southall, piano. Challenge Productions CP-8206 (1982)

CD: John Davis, piano. Newport Classics LC 8554 (1999, John Davis plays Blind Tom).

Vivo galop, for piano (1865). Duration: 2:06.

CD: John Davis, piano. Newport Classics LC 8554 (1999, John Davis plays Blind Tom).

Water in the moonlight, for piano (1854). Chicago: S. Brainard’s Sons, 1866. 5p. Duration: 3:00. Library: Library of Congress.

----- n.p.?: Oliver Ditson, 1866.

AC: Geneva Southall, piano. Challenge Productions CP-8206 (1982)

CD: John Davis, piano. Newport Classics LC 8554 (1999, John Davis plays Blind Tom).

Wellenklänge; Concert Waltzer; voices of the waves, for piano (1882), by François Sexalise [pseud.]. New York: J. G. Bethune, 1882. Duration: 6:44. Library: Library of Congress.

----- New York: Spear and Dehnkott, 1887. 16p. Library: Library of Congress.

AC: Geneva Southall, piano. Challenge Productions CP-8206 (1982)

CD: John Davis, piano. Newport Classics LC 8554 (1999, John Davis plays Blind Tom).

When this cruel war is over; variations, for piano, rev. by L. K.(1865). Philadelphia: J. Marsh, 1865. Duration: 7:21.

----- Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1888. 11p. Library: Library of Congress.

CD: John Davis, piano. Newport Classics LC 8554 (1999, John Davis plays Blind Tom).

Wilt thou bring my baby home, for medium voice & piano (1881). n.p.: J. G. Bethune, 1881. 5p. Text: Blind Tom. Library: Library of Congress.

AC: Oral Moses, bass; Ann Sears, piano. (Art songs and spirituals by Black Americans).

VHS: Blind Tom. Chicago: Clearvue (M4BVH V221). Duration: 30:00.

22 Bibliography
Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma

“Black Tom” by P., from the Springfield Republican, in Dwight’s journal of music, v22n9, n556 (1862/11/29) p275.

“Blind Tom (and done with)” in Dwight’s journal of music, v22n10, n557 (1862/XII/06) p286.

“Blind Tom again” in Dwight’s journal of music, v22n7, n553 (1862/XI/15) p267-268. [The authors of these four letters are identified a “F.M.R., a lady,” “Benda,” “Montgomery,” and “W.”]

“Blind Tom, the musical prodigy” in All the year round, v8 (18??), p126.

“Blind Tom” in Atlantic monthly, v10 (1962/XI) p580-585.

“Blind Tom” in Dwight’s journal of music, v22n6, n553 (18761/XI) p250-252. [followed with comments by Dwight, p254.]

“Book uncovers how Black musical genius Blind Tom was exploited in 1880s” in Jet (1980/!/17) p30.

“Extraordinary people” in New York times (2000/II/5).

“General James N. Bethune, owner of Blind Tom, was outstanding personality in Columbus” in Columbus magazine (1941/V/31).

“More about Tom” in Dwight’s journal of music, v22n10, n557 (1862/XII/06) p283.

“The remarkable case of the late Blind Tom; How an imbecile blind Negro pianist amazed scientists and musicians the world over” in Etude, v26n8 (1908/VIII) p532.

“Thomas Green (Blind Tom)” in Jet, v64 (1983/V/30) p24.

“Thomas Green Bethune” in A salute to historic Blacks in the arts. Chicago: Empack Publishing Co., 1996, p16-17.

“Tom, the blind pianist” in Harpers weekly (1866/II/10).

Abbott, Eugenie B. “The miraculous case of Blind Tom: The enigma of the famous musical genius who astonished the world” in Etude, v58 (1940/VIII) p517-564.

Abbott, Lynn. Out of sight; The rise of African American popular music, 1889-1895, by Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff. [n.p.]: University Press of Mississippi, 2002.

Abdul-Rahim, Raoul. Blacks in classical music; A personal history. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1977.

American music v4n1, p51

Anderson, Florence. “Blind Tom’s music” in Cincinnati enquirer  (1965/VII/26).

Andreu, Enrique. “Tragedia de un Beethoven negro” in Revista musical chilena, v3n25-26 (1947/X-XI) p24-29.

Bakers 1992

Becket, James A. “Blind Tom as he is to-day” by John A’Becket, in Ladies’ home journal, v15n10 (1898/IX) p13-14. Reprinted in Black perspective in music, v4n2 (1976/VII) p184-188.

Berry, Lemuel, Jr. Biographical dictionary of Black musicians and music educators, vol. 1. Guthrie OK: Educational Book Publishers, 1978.

Bettonville, Albert. “En 1860, Blind Tom était l’ancêtre des pianistes de jazz” in Hot club magazine, v26 (1948/IV) p7-8.

Bio-bibliographic index 1972

Black music research bulletin v12n2, p14

Black music research journal, 1980, p9, 85, 86, 90 (Wiggins); 1981-1982, p128, 138 (Bethune); v9n2, p228; v10n1, p154 (Bethune)

Black perspective in music, v2n1, p159; v4n2, p161, 172; v5n2, p241; v7n1, p104; v14n1, p9; v14n2, p192.

Blind Tom, the great Negro pianist. Baltimore: 1867.

Brawley 1937

Brawley, Benjamin. The Negro genius. New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1968, p121-133.

Brooks, Tilford. America’s Black musical heritage. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1984.

Brooks, Wendell. “Lyrical Hush celebrates work of Blind Tom Wiggins” in Atlanta journal (2002/II/6) pE3.

Carter, Madison H. An annotated catalogue of composers of African ancestry. New York: Vantage Press, 1986.

Cole, Aaron. “The true story of Blind Tom” in Daily mail [Freetown, Sierra Leone]; 1955/VI/29)

Coleman, Kenneth, ed. “Blind Tom” in Dictionary of Georgia biography, ed. by Kenneth Coleman and Charles Stephen Gurr. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1983.

Complete catalogue of sheet music and musical works. Board of Music Trade of the United States of America, 1871.

Corrothers, James D. “Blind Tom, singing” in Black perspective in music, v4n2 (1976/VII) p189-190. Reprinted from Southern workman, v30n5 (1901/V) p258-259. [poetry]

Cotter 1959

Cuney-Hare, Maud. Negro musicians and their music, introduction by Josephine Harreld Love. New York: G. K. Hall, 1996, 1936. Xl, xii, 439p. (African-American women writers, 1910-1940, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., general editor). LC 96-17696.

Davis, J. Frank. “Blind Tom” in Human life (1908/IX).

Davis, Rebecca Blaine Harding. “Blind Tom” in Atlantic monthly, v10 (1862) p580-585. Reprinted in Dwight’s journal of music, v22 (1862) p250-252.

Derricotte, Elise P. Word pictures of great Negroes. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1964, p13-21.

Dienhart, Paul. “Blind Tom uncovers exploitation of a Black musical genius” in Minneapolis spokesman (1979/XII/27).

Dienhart, Paul. “Southall uncovered story of Blind Tom” in Report (1980/I) p4-5.

Eason, Charissa-Marie. “Biography reveals untold story of Blind Tom” in Minnesota daily, v81n93 (1980/I/17) p10.

Elson, Louis C. The history of American music. New York: Macmillan, 1904.

F. H. Parmelees musical monthly, n13. New London: (1885/VI), p4.

Fisher, Renée S. Musical prodigies; Masters at an early age. New York: Association Press, 1973, p69-72.

Floyd, Samuel A., Jr. Black music biography; An annotated bibliography, by Samuel A. Floyd, Jr., and Marsha Reisser. White Plains: Kraus International Publications, 1986., ppxxiii, 44, 46-47

Greene, Frank. Composers on record; an index to biographical informatrion on 14,000 composers whose music has been recorded. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1985. 636p. OSBN 0-8108-1816-7. (entry: Bethune Greene)

Hampton 1970

Hughes, Langston. Black magic; A pictorial history of the Negro in American entertainment. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1967.

Hunt, Inez. “The story of Blind Tom” in The baton of Phi Beta, v51n3 (1972) p6-7.

Index to the Schomburg clipping file. Alexandria: Chadwyck-Healey, 1986.

Jablonski, Edward. The encyclopedia of American music. Garden City: Doubleday & Co., 1981, p62

Jackson 1985a, p88, 94

Jay, Ricky. Learned pigs and fireproof women. New York: Villard Books, 1986, p74-81.

Juhn, Kurt. “Black Beethoven” in Negro digest (1945/VI) p33-38.

Kech, George R., ed. Studies in nineteenth-century Afro-American music, ed. by George R. Keck and Sherrill V. Martin. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1988.

Kehler, George. The piano in concert. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1983.

King, Anita. “Blind Tom; a child out of time” in Essence (1973/VIII).

Krummel, Donald W. Resources of American music history, by D. W. Krummel, Jean Geil, and Deane L. Root. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981.

Lerma, Dominique-René de. “A concordance of music entries in five encyclopedias: Bakers, Ewen, Groves, MGG, and Rich” in Black music research journal 1981/1982, p127-150. Reprinted in Black perspective in music, v11n2 (1983/fall) p190-209.

Lerma, Dominique-René de. Black music in our culture; Curricular ideas on the subjects, materials, and problems. Kent: Kent State University Press, 1970.

Lerma, Dominique-René de. Reflections on Afro-American music. Kent: Kent State University Press, 1972.

Lyle 1984 (c1850-)

Magill, Charles T. “Blind Tom, unresolved problem in musical history” in Chicago defender (1922/VIII/19).

Mapp, Edward. Directory of Blacks in the performing arts. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1978., 1990 (1849-)

Nixon, Louise Emerson. “Blind Tom: incredible imitator” in Music journal, v29n8 (1971/X) p40, 61.

Oliver 1990

Ortiz 1955

Patterson 1988, p479

Pfaelzer, Jean. “Domesticity and the discourse of slavery; ‘John Lamar’ and ‘Blind Tom’ by Rebecca Harding Davis” in Esq; A journal of the American renaissance, v38n1 (1992) p31-56.

Reed, Bill. Hot from Harlem; profiles in classic African-American entertainment. Los Angeles: Cellar Door Books, 1998. 292p. LC 97-094657; ISBN 0-9661449-0-2

Riis, Thomas. “The cultivated White traditions and Black music in nineteenth-century America; a discussion of some articles in J.S. Dwight’s journal of music” in Black perspective in music, v4n2 (1976/VII) p156-176.

Roach, Hildred. Black American music, past and present. Boston: Crescendo, 1973.

Robinson, Norbonne T. N., Jr. “Blind Tom, musical prodigy” in Georgia historical quarterly, v51 (1967) p336-358.

Robinson, Wilhelmena S. Historical Afro-American biographies. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1976, p51 (International library of Afro-American life and history).

Rogers 1947, p558

Sampson, Henry T. Blacks in blackface; A source book on early Black musical shows. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1980., p1.

Sears, Ann. “Bethune, Thomas Greene Wiggins (“Blind Tom”)” in International dictionary of Black composers, ed by Samuel A. Floyd, Jr. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999, v1, p105-108.

Sears, Ann. “Keyboard music by nineteenth-century Afro-American composers”in Feel the spirit; Studies in nineteenth-century Afro-American music, ed. by George R. Keck and Sherrill V. Martin. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1988, p135-155.

Seguin, Edouard. Idiocy and its treatment by the psychological method. 1866.

Simmons, William J. Men of mark; Eminent, progressive, and rising. Chicago: Johnson Publishing Co., 1970, 1887, p557-560.

Slonimsky, Nicolas. “Bethune, Thomas Greene” in Baker’s biographical dictionary of musicians. 6th ed. New York: Schirmer Books, 1978, p165-166.

Songs; Sketch of the lide, Blind Tom, The marvelous musical prodigy, the Negro boy pianist, testimonials and opinions of the most eminent composers. Philadelphia: Ledger Book and Job Printing, 1865.

Southall, Geneva Handy. “Bethune (Green), Thomas “ in The new Grove dictionary of American music, ed. by H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan, 1986, v1, p203-204.

Southall, Geneva Handy. “Bethune, Thomas Greene” in Dictionary of American Negro biography, ed. by Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston. New York: W. W. Norton, 1982, p43-44.

Southall, Geneva Handy. “Bethune, Thomas” in The new Grove dictionary of music and musicians, ed by Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan, 1980, v2, p663-664.

Southall, Geneva Handy. “Blind Tom; A misrepresented and neglected composer-pianist” in Black perspective in music, v3n2 (May 1975) p141-159.

Southall, Geneva Handy. Blind Tom, the Black pianist-composer (1849-1908) continually enslaved, intro. by Dominique-René de Lerma. Lanham MD: Scarecrow Press, 1999. xvii, 214p. ISBN 0-8108-3594-0 (hardback); 0-8108-4545-8, paperback, 224p..

Southall, Geneva Handy. Blind Tom; The post-Civil War enslavement of a Black musical genius, intro. by Samuel A. Floyd, Jr. Minneapolis: Challenge Production, 1979. xix, 108p. LC 79-54227.

Southall, Geneva Handy. The continuing enslavement of Blind Tom, the Black pianist-composer (1865-1887), book II, intro. by T. J. Anderson. Minneapolis: Challenge Productions, 1983. xiii, 318p. LC 79-54227.

Southern 1971a

Southern 1971b

Southern, Eileen. “Bethune, Thomas Greene” in Biographical dictionary of Afro-American and African musicians. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1982, p33-34. (The Greenwood encyclopedia of Black music).

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Spencer 1991

Spradling, Mary Mace. In black and white; Afro-Americans in print. 3rd ed. supplement. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Detroit: Gale Research, 1980. (entries: Bethune, and Wiggins)

Stoddard, Tom. “Blind Tom, slave genius” in Storyville, n28 (1970/IV-V) p134-138.

Stoutamore, Albert Lucian. Music of the old South, colony to confederacy.  Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1972. 349p. LC 74-149827. ISBN 0-8386-7910-2.

Thomas 1989, p95

Thornton, Ella Mae “The strange case of Blind Tom” in Music journal, v15 (1957/XI-XII) p16.

Thornton, Ella Mae. “The mystery of Blind Tom” in Georgia review, v15 (1961) p394-400.

Thornton, Ella Mae. “The strange case of Blind Tom” in Music journal, v15 (1957/XI) p91-92.

Toll, Robert. Blacking up; The minstrel show in nineteenth-century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974, p197.

Treffert, Darold. Extraordinary people; Understanding idiots savants. New York: Harper & Row, 1989.

Treffert, Daryle. Extraordinary people; Redefining the idiot savant. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Trotter, James M. Music and some highly musical people. Chicago: Afro-Am Press, 1969, 1878, p140-159.

Tutein, Anna Amalie. “The phenomenon of Blind Tom” in Etude, v37 (1918/II) p91-92.

Wiesel, H. J. “Blind Tom” in Dwight’s journal of music, v22n17, n564 (1863/01/24) p340-341.

Winston, Michael R., ed. Dictionary of Negro biography, ed. by Michael R. Winston and Rayford W. Logan. New York: W. W. Norton, 1982.

Woodall, W. C. “Blind Tom as seen by his mother, Charity Wiggins” in Sunny south (1900/X).

Woodall, W. C. “Blind Tom, our most famous personage” in Columbus magazine (1941/VII/31).

Wright, Josephine. “Thomas Greene Bethune (1849-1908)” by Josephine Wright and Eileen Southern, in Black perspective in music, v4n2 (1976/VII) p177-183.

Young, George. Le merveilleux prodige musical, Tom l’Aveugle, le jeune nègre pianiste d’Amérique don’t les récentes répresentations dans les salles de Saint-James & Egyptian à Londres ont fait grande sensation; Tuteur de Tom l’Aveugle, M. W. P. Howard, abrégé de la vie, témoinages des musiciens et savants, opinions de la presse anglaise & américiane, tradut de l’anglais par Edward Stebbing. Paris: Imprimerie Vollée, 1867. 37p.

Young, George. The marvelous musical prodigy, Blind Tom, the Negro boy pianist whose performances at the great St. James and Egyptian halls, London, and Salle Herz, Paris, have created such a profound sensation; Anecdotes, songs, sketches of the life, testimonials of musicians and savans, and opinions of the American and English press of Blind Tom. New York: French & Wheat, 1868. 30p. LC 43-20016.

---- Baltimore: The Sun Book and Job Printing Establishment, 1878. 30p.

---- Liverpool: Benson & Holme, 1867. 54p.

----- New York: French & Wheat, 1867. 30p.

----- New York: French & Wheat, 1868. 30p. LC 43-20016.

---- New York: French & Wheat, 1870. 30p.

 

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