her birth in Weimar, Texas
may have just been chance, it's her accomplishments after she left
Weimar that deserve a closer
look. When she died last year of cancer (in Chicago) at the age of
102, Etta Moten Barnett had had a rich and full life.. She is now
remembered as an actress, singer, and philanthropist, but as the only
daughter of the Reverend Freeman F. Moten and his wife Ida, she was
a ten-year-old who taught Sunday school and sang in the church choir.
Our coverage of Etta Moten is supplemented by this information from
Bill Stein, Director of the Nesbitt Library
in Columbus, Texas.
"I went to the courthouse
yesterday and found out a little more about Etta Moten. Her mother,
Ida Mae Norman, was raised here [Columbus].
In 1900, she was an 18 year old washerwoman living with her widowed
mother and her younger sister. On February 5, 1901, she married Freeman
F. Moten, who was 25 or 26, here in Colorado
County. Etta, apparently their only child, was born on November
5, 1901, nine months to the day after the wedding. By 1910, they had
moved to Anderson
County, where Freeman was working as a minister and Ida as a dressmaker.
I have not found them after that. According to her biographers, Etta
married right out of high school, suggesting to me that she was married
around 1920. If so, she probably married a local boy, so that wedding
might have occurred in Anderson
County. Or maybe not. It would be interesting to turn up her marriage
certificate. By the way, the family is usually listed in official
records as "Morton" rather than "Moten." I am sure that Moten is correct,
but mention this in case [anyone wishes to do additional] research."
- Bill Stein
Harry Belafonte (on the occasion of Etta's 100th birthday) said that
Etta "gave Black people an opportunity to see themselves on a big
screen as something beautiful. In her we found another dimension to
being Black in our time."
Etta Motel Barnett's life was also addressed by her daughter who said:
"People don't know what guts it must have taken to leave a husband
with three children ... to go back to school ... to embark on a show
business career alone ... and to turn a blind eye to the overt racism
and discrimination of the day and not be deterred. People don't know
all of the racial barriers she knocked down without even trying. People
don't know what an example she is for us all in staying active and
growing old gracefully."
Ten Things You Should Know About
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