Digital Repository

Etta Moten Barnett

Acclaimed singer and actress Etta Moten Barnett was born in Weimar, Texas, in 1901. By the age of ten, she was singing in the choir of her father’s church. Thirty-three years later, at the invitation of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, she became the first African American woman to sing at the White House. Barnett starred on Broadway, most notably as Bess in a revival of Porgy and Bess. She charmed audiences around the world singing in concerts with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. She was also deeply involved in civic affairs, women’s issues, and causes such as African independence.

Audio: Houston Public Media

Photograph of Etta Moten Barnett