The world knew him as “Blind Tom” Wiggins, a musical prodigy, one of the best-known American performing pianists of the 19th century.
Born in Harris County, Georgia, in 1849, to enslaved parents, because Tom was blind, he could not do the same work as others enslaved. Finding an interest and much talent in playing the piano at a young age, he composed his first tune by the age of five. And he was known to play all day. As one observer said about Tom – “I don’t exaggerate when I say that he made the piano go from twelve hours out of twenty-four.”
Tom performed worldwide, including at the U.S. White House, where it is believed he was the first African-American to perform, doing so when he was just eleven years old.
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“American Pianist ‘Blind Tom’ Wiggins” sources: Blind Tom. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2002712734/> / Wikimedia Commons / Deirdre O’Connell, “The Ballad of Blind Tom”, (Overlook Press, 2009) Archived July 10th, 2015, at the Wayback Machine / Wikipedia