COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — A local library hosted an event highlighting a Columbus man who became a musical prodigy after being born into slavery. 

Over 50 people attended the event in honor of Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins at the Mildred L. Terry Public Library. 

Thomas Wiggins was born into slavery in Columbus in 1849. From a young age, people started to notice his growing passion for music. He later became known as a gifted pianist, composer and one of the most in-demand musicians of his time in America in the late 19th century.

Blind Tom was even the first African American to perform in the White House in 1860 for then-President James Buchanan. 

Today, his family carries on his legacy through presentations of the oral history that has been passed down generation to generation. Wiggins’ great-great-great niece, Angela Miles-Williams, spoke at today’s event, saying it’s important to remember African American history.

While there are many unanswered questions about Blind Tom’s life, Angela has one question she wishes she could ask her great-uncle. 

“Why did you retire?”, asks Angela. “Why did you go into this self-imposed retirement? I mean, we can speculate as to what the reason was, but I really would like to know, why did he make that decision?”

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson was also in attendance at the library. During the end of his proclamation, he had a surprise for Angela and the audience. He declared Feb. 24, 2023 as Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins Day in Columbus, Georgia.