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The Cosandra Calloway Show
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Mabley was born in Brevard, North Carolina. Although she always claimed a birthdate of 1894 and that she was one of a family of twenty children, the 1900 Federal Census shows "Loretter Aiken" in Brevard was born in March 1897 and was the youngest of four (out of five) surviving children of James P. and Mary Aiken. Her father owned and operated several businesses, while her mother kept house and took in boarders. Her father died in an accident when Loretta was eleven. In 1910, her mother took over their primary business, a general store.
James Aiken's father, Henry Aiken, was part white. His mother, Bettie, was able to read and write in the 1870 census, five years after the abolition of slavery, which suggests she may have been a free woman of color. Loretta Mabley's genealogist, D. Richmond, wrote: "She has a very interesting lineage worth researching."
By the age of fifteen, Mabley had been raped twice and had two children who were given up for adoption.She was pressured by her stepfather to marry a much older man, but was encouraged by her grandmother to strike out on her own. Mabley ran away to Cleveland, Ohio, joining a traveling minstrel show, where she sang and entertained.
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