From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Griffin, Mabel and Emma [The Griffin Sisters]

Mabel (born around 1870) and Emma (1873-1918) Griffin were born in Louisville, KY. The highly popular vaudeville performers, known as the Griffin Sisters, toured throughout the United States, including Alaska, the western tour to California and back, and the southern tour that included Kentucky.

They began performing as members of John Isham's Octoroons Company and toured with several other companies before organizing their own theater booking agency in 1913 in Chicago. They had been considered premiere performers, breaking theater attendance records while with the Sherman H. Dudley agency that was created in 1912 as the first African American-owned vaudeville circuit agency. The Griffin Agency was one of the earliest to be managed by African American women,. The duo also had a school of vaudeville art.

Emma Griffin encourage African American performers to use either the Dudley Agency or the Griffin Agency. The sisters also opened the Alamon Theater in Indianapolis, IN, in April  1914. They managed the Majestic Theater in Washington, D.C. in June of 1914.

The sisters were listed as mulattoes, along with their brother Henry, who was a musician, and their grandmother Mary Montgomery, all in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census when the family lived in Chicago.

For more see "The Griffin Sisters" in Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians, by E. Southern; A. Knight, "He paved the way for T.O.B.A.," The Black Perspective in Music, vol. 15, issue 2, pp. 153-181; the ad "S. H. Dudley: The Griffin Sisters," Freeman, 3/08/1913, p. 5; the ad "Griffin Sisters Theatrical Agency," Freeman, 12/20/1913, p. 6; the ad "Griffin Sisters Theatrical Agency and School of Vaudeville Art," Broad Axe, 2/07/1914, p. 3; "Griffin Sisters open the Alamo," Freeman, 4/25/1914, p. 1; "Majestic Theater," Washington Bee, 5/30/1914, p. 5; and "Emma Griffin dead," Washington Bee, 9/14/1918, p. 4.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Griffin, Mabel and Emma [The Griffin Sisters],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 22, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-11-04 18:57:07