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Stephen Foster

Stephen Foster (July 4, 1826 - January 13, 1864) was a the preeminent songwriter in the United States of his era.

Stephen Collins Foster was born in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania. Foster wrote "Oh! Susanna", "Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair", "My Old Kentucky Home", "Swanee River", "Old Dog Tray", and "Camptown Races," and many others which enjoyed huge popularity in their day.

Many of his songs were in the Minstrel show tradition popular at the time. However rather than simply caricaturing African-Americans, they show an empathy for the sufferings of the slave rare in works for the mainstream white audience of the time. This won Foster praise from Frederick Douglass, among others.

Foster tried to make a living as a professional songwriter, but due in part to the poor provisions for music copyright and composer royalties at the time, Foster saw very little of the profits which his works generated for sheet music printers. Multiple publishers would often print their own competing editions of Foster's tunes, paying Foster nothing.

Stephen Foster died impoverished (posessing exactly 38 cents) at the age of 37. He was interred in the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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