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Etta Moten Barnett - Page 1

Ten Things You Should Know
About Etta Moten Barnett

  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.

  2. She was the very first to break the stereotypical portrayal of African-Americans in the movies by appearing as a widowed housewife in Golddiggers of 1933.

  3. 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 sing.

  4. 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.

  5. 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."

    [Music - Porgy and Bess ]


  6. She became the first Black woman to sing at the White House (1934) at FDR's birthday celebration.

  7. 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."

  8. 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.

  9. Etta Barnett represented the U.S. Government on missions to ten African nations and was given honorary degrees from at least 7 Universities and Colleges.

  10. 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.

‹ See Etta Moten Barnett, Page 1

"They shoe horses, don't they?" - February 1, 2005 column

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[Music - Porgy and Bess ]

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