American blues and jazz singer/actress, Ethel Waters was born on October 31, 1896. Growing up, Ethel experienced a tough childhood. She was married for the first time at just 12-years-old. At 13-years-old, she sang in public for the first time in a nigh club but it wasn’t until she was 17 when she sang professionally in Baltimore, Maryland. She became known as “Sweet Mama Stringbean.” Ethel Waters became the first woman to ever sing W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues.”

Her career and fame rose quickly! She moved to New York and appeared at the Plantation Club in Harlem and later on Broadway. In the span of her career, Ethel has recorded with artists such as Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. Waters made history in 1962 when she was nominated for an Emmy award. Last but not least, she is the first African American to star in her own television show, The Ethel Waters Show!

The white audiences thought I was white, my features being what they are, and at every performance I’d have to take off my gloves to prove I was a spade.” – Ethel Waters


Information obtained from Britannica