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Etta Moten Barnett

Black Pioneer Entertainer From Weimar

One of the African-American pioneers in the entertainment business, Ella Moten Barnett, was a native of Weimar.

A vocalist and vocalist[sic] and theatre artist, she was born on Nov 5, 1901 in Weimar.

She was the only daughter of the Rev. Freeman and Ida Norman Moten.

During her senior year at the University of Kansas, Moten was discovered while performing in a recital and invited to join the prestigious Eva Jessy Choir in New York, which she promptly did after graduation.

She was married in the 1920s , and divorced six years later.

She went on to achieve stardom in the theater,performing in legendary Broadway productions of Sugar Hill, Lysistrata, and Porgy and Bess, joining the ranks of African-America’s most elite talent, including Sidney Poitier , Cab Calloway, and Maya Angelou. Moten became the first African-American stage and screen star to sing and perform at the White House.

President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt invited Ms. Moten on Jan 31, 1933.

In 1934 Moten married Claude Barnett, founder of the Negro Associated Press.

Together they enjoyed a special bond, traveling during the late 1950’s as members of U. S. delegation to Ghana. She also represented the U. S. at the independent ceremonies of Nigeria, Zambia, and Lusaka.

After her husband’s death in 1967, Moten Barnett became more active in domestic affairs including working with the Chicago’s DuSable Museum and Lyric Opera.

Her many distinctions include honorary degrees from Spelman College, Lincoln University, and the University of Illinois, an award for her Contributions to American Music by Atlanta University, and the establishment of a scholarship in her name for minority students at the Chicago Academy for the Performing Arts.

She was a long time resident of Chicago and died on Jan 3, 2004.

Weimar Mercury, February 3, 2005

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