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TURNER, RACHEL WALKER

TURNER, RACHEL WALKER

TURNER, RACHEL WALKER (1868-12 Nov. 1943) was a black soprano who began her career in Cleveland and later toured the U.S. and Europe singing classical selections as well as songs such as "The Last Rose of Summer" and "Swanee River." Rachel Walker, daughter to T.W. and M.L. (Lenyar) Turner, graduated from Cleveland's CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL, entered Cleveland Normal Training School, and became a teacher in 1889. She taught in the city schools until sometime in the mid-1890s when she went to study in New York, apparently after JOHN P. GREEN secured her financial assistance from JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER. In late 1895 or early 1896, she toured California as the prima donna of the white Henry Wolfsohn Musical Bureau, and in July 1896 she made her debut as "the creole nightingale" in New York City at the Olympia Roof Garden, where the "unusual compass and excellent quality" of her voice made her "an extraordinary hit." A correspondent for the CLEVELAND GAZETTE who saw her New York performance complained about her "palm[ing herself] off as a 'creole'" rather than stressing "the Afro-American connection." She later sang in Washington, D.C. as a member of the Robt. Downing Co., then went to London to study and made frequent appearances in Europe. She remained in Europe until the outbreak of WORLD WAR I, when she returned to Cleveland. On 27 June 1916 Turner married Robt. Turner. Although she made a few concert appearances, opportunities were few, and her singing career came to an end.