"Not A Popular Hero": Guarded Praise for an Outsider Musician

Black newspapers editors struggled to make sense of Blind Tom in 1908. The piano prodigy lived isolated from black communities, under the control of his white managers. Few, if any,  black folk knew him. He was an outsider, an object of suspicion, his condition misunderstood -- although his fame and considerable earning power was a source of great fascination.

This clipping, from the New York Age, July 9, 1908 sums up the guarded praise of the black press. "Blind Tom was not a popular hero nor had other he the gifts than one that dominated his being, but he contributed much to the enjoyment of multitudes of people and left the world better than he found it", wrote the Topeka Plaindealer.

The muted response of the black newspapers pricked the conscience of the New York Age's theatrical editor, Lester A. Walton, who regretted that the editors "did not express any great sorrow over the passing of Blind Tom".  To compensate, he penned a tribute to the mysterious Blind Tom.