Moten Barnett, Page 1
- After her
first marriage dissolved, she moved (with her three daughters)
to her parents home in Kansas where she graduated from the University
of Kansas (in voice and drama) in 1931.
- She was the
very first to break the stereotypical portrayal of African-Americans
in the movies by appearing as a widowed housewife in Golddiggers
- She moved
to NYC where she got a leading role on Broadway in a production
called "Zombie." She later dubbed songs for actresses that couldn't
- After her
appearance in Gold Diggers of 1933, she was touted as "The New
Negro Woman" by the African-American press. Her first screen credit
was in Flying Down to Rio where she played a Brazilian
singing "The Carioca" while Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers danced.
- George Gershwin
wrote the character "Bess" in Porgy and Bess with Etta
in mind. He planned for her to star in the original production
in 1935, but she refused at first because the role was for a soprano
and she sang contralto. In 1942, she finally accepted the role
and starred in the Broadway production which went on tour until
1945. It was to become her signature role. Lena Horne, whose grandfather
took her to see Porgy and Bess later said that Etta Barnett was
her "role model."
and Bess ]
- She became
the first Black woman to sing at the White House (1934) at FDR's
- After Porgy
and Bess she performed internationally at concerts and music festivals,
her last performance being a Danish concert in 1952. She later
hosted a Chicago radio program called "I Remember When."
- That same
year she performed at the white house, she married Claude Barnett,
founder of the Associated Negro Press. Their marriage lasted until
Mr. Barnett's death 33 years later.
- Etta Barnett
represented the U.S. Government on missions to ten African nations
and was given honorary degrees from at least 7 Universities and
- She considered
her 100th birthday (attended by Harry Belafonte, Studs Terkel,
and about 400 others) as her life's high water mark so no elaborate
funeral arrangements were made. She suggested that donations could
be given to Chicago's Second Presbyterian Church Restoration Fund.