Concert pianist Philippa Duke Schuyler, age 14
Piano prodigy Philippa Duke Schuyler was the daughter of a politically conservative black journalist and a white former Southern beauty queen. George Schuyler and Josephine Codgell were proponents of interracial marriage and believed that biracial children had the potential to be exceptional thanks to their mixed heritage.
Josephine devoted herself to developing her daughter’s expected genius. A raw food proponent, Josephine fed Philippa a diet of raw vegetables, raw beef, and cod liver oil. Philippa was educated mainly at home and by age two her spelling ability was profiled in a New York newspaper. By four, Philippa was an established piano prodigy, often performing her own compositions. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia was among her fans. Her IQ was tested to be 185.
As a teenager Philippa was an international touring pianist, but she struggled to find tour sponsors due to her race and gender. As she matured, Philippa became disillusioned with both her parents and the discrimination she faced. Philippa gave up performing in her thirties and became a journalist.
While on assignment in Vietnam in 1967, Philippa’s helicopter crashed and unable to swim, she drown. Heartbroken, Josephine committed suicide on the second anniversary of her daughter’s death.
A middle school in Brooklyn is named in Philippa’s honor.