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May 15, 2020

Rare and Beautiful Color Photos of Philippa Schuyler Photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1949

Born 1931 in Harlem, New York, Philippa Schuyler was a child prodigy who played at Carnegie Hall and around the world. She was the daughter of George Schuyler, a prominent black journalist and Josephine Cogdell Schuyler, a white Texan heiress. Her parents believed that interracial marriages were beneficial for humanity and would produce extraordinary offspring.

Philippa was recognized as a prodigy at an early age. She was able to read and write at 2, playing Schumann and Mozart at 4 and by 5, she was writing her own compositions.

Philippa was subjected to a strict diet of only raw foods and her mother entered her in every possible music competition. New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia was a fan of hers and declared June 19, 1940 “Philippa Duke Schuyler Day” at the New York World’s Fair, where she performed two piano recitals.

At 11, Philippa became the youngest member of the National Association for American Composers and Conductors. She spoke six languages and after graduating from high school at 15, she traveled the world performing for dignitaries.

Philippa encountered racism as she grew older. She had trouble finding acceptance by the classical elite in the United States, so she attempted to find an audience abroad. At one point she tried to pass herself off as a Spanish woman named Felipa Monterro y Schuyler.

In 1965, Philippa endured a late-term abortion in Tijuana after an affair with a Ghanaian diplomat because she wanted to reproduce with an Aryan man. She later became a journalist, and while in Vietnam as a war correspondent, she was killed in U.S. Army helicopter crash during a mission to evacuate Vietnamese orphans in 1967.

Philippa survived the crash into the sea, but was unable to swim and drowned. Her mother committed suicide two years later.

These rare and beautiful color photos of very young Philippa Schuyler were taken by Carl Van Vechten on February 22, 1949.


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