Etta Moten Barnett, blazed new trails both on and off the stage

This Week in Texas Music History

Etta Moten Barnett, blazed new trails both on and off the stage

Posted by on Nov 5, 2012

This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a singer who blazed new trails both on and off the stage.

Etta Moten Barnett was born in Weimar, Texas, on November 5, 1901. She began her singing career on Broadway in 1931 with productions of Fast and Furious and Zombie. Her first movie appearance was in Busby Berkley’s Gold Diggers of 1933, in which she helped break the Hollywood stereotype of African-American women as domestic servants. She also appeared with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers inFlying Down to Rio, in which she played a Brazilian singer performing the Oscar-nominated song, “The Carioca.”

On January 31, 1934, Etta Moten Barnett became the first African-American woman to perform at the White House. In the 1940s, she won acclaim on Broadway in the title role of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. During the 1950s and 1960s, Barnett also served as part of a U.S. delegation to Africa.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll learn about a music teacher who made the grade from the streets of Houston to the concert halls of Japan.