Friday, May 25, 2012

Thomas 'Blind Tom' Wiggins (1849-1908), Enslaved Pianist and Composer Born May 25, 1849

[The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist: America's Lost Musical Genius; Deirdre O’Connell; Overlook Press (2009)]

Thomas“Blind Tom” Wiggins (1849-1908) was an African American pianist and composer. He was a blind and autistic slave who nevertheless was a musical genius. He is profiled at, which features a complete Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma,

For the past three years, interest in the life and music of Thomas Wiggins has been greatly increased due to the work of Deirdre O'Connell, an Australian writer whose highly readable biography is The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist: America's Lost Musical Genius.  The book's website is: Performances of piano works composed by Wiggins have become steadily more numerous in recent years.

In another recent development related to the story of Thomas Wiggins, musicologist Arthur R. LaBrew was honored earlier this year by the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. (NANM) for his scholarly research on Wiggins. LaBrew has also been honored by the Azalia Hackley Collection of the Detroit Public Library. He is the author of Free at last: legal aspects concerning the career of Blind Tom Bethune, 1849-1908; Arthur R. La Brew (1976) (68 pages).

His profile at is based primarily on the book Blind Tom, The Black Pianist-Composer: Continually Enslaved, by the late Professor Geneva Handy Southall, who devoted her academic career to Wiggins. She points out that he never really gained his freedom or the control of his own earnings, even after the Civil War. 

No comments: