Ira Aldridge was born to Reverend Daniel and Luranah Aldridge in New York City on July 24, 1807. At the age of 13, he attended the African Free School founded by the New York Manumission Society. He received a classical education which included English grammar, writing, mathematics, geography, and astronomy.

1830’s Lithograph by black engraver and lithographer Patrick H. Reason, also an alumnist of the school.

He became interesting in acting as a student at the New York African Free School, and by the age of 15 associated with the black actors in the city. He supplemented this intimate education with seeing productions of Shakespeare at the African Grove Theater and watching plays at the Park Theater in New York from the high balcony. Encouraged to join the Grove Theater by his acting friends, Aldridge soon became one of its star performers.