Ethel Waters

Black performers in the future will benefit much from the pioneering work of African American musician Ethel Waters, whose contributions to music and entertainment have greatly contributed in eradicating racial barriers. She has contributed to the evolution of gospel music and helped to shape the sound of early jazz and blues through her powerful voice, on-stage presence, and inventive albums.

Artist History:


Ethel Waters was born in Chester Pennsylvania on October 31, 1896. 


Louise Anderson was Ethel Waters’ mother, and John Waters was her father. Despite the fact that Ethel’s parents were not married, her grandmother Sally Anderson raised her and while in poverty.


She was the first black singer to perform on television in 1939, the first black singer to appear on radio in April 21, 1922,  the first black woman to introduce 50 songs that went on to become hits in 1933, the first black woman to star in a commercial network radio show in 1933, and the first black woman to star on Broadway in a dramatic play .



Ethel Waters, a singer and actress, had a very tough upbringing. In reality, she stated in the first line of her memoirs His Eye Is on the Sparrow, “I was never a child. My family never tried to make me feel special or liked or understood. I never felt like I fit in. I have always felt unwelcome. I was not raised by anyone. She experienced both violent conception and violent upbringing. She only received a rudimentary education at best because she left school early to work as a maid.

Professional Career:

When she joined a touring show as a youngster, Ethel Waters started her professional career as a performer in vaudeville theaters and clubs. She relocated to New York City in 1917 and started singing in Harlem, where she soon established herself as a gifted and charming performer. She recorded numerous successful songs, including “Dinah” and “Stormy Weather,” over the following few years while also performing in a number of Broadway productions. She continued to push herself creatively and explore new musical styles and genres while experiencing tremendous discrimination for being a Black musician, and she remained one of the most forward-thinking and significant artists of her era. Ethel Waters continued to perform and record music at the end of her career, but she also got more and more active in television and film. She made several notable TV appearances in the 1950s and 1960s, such as “Beulah” and “The Sound and the Fury,” and she also made several film appearances, such as “The Member of the Wedding” and “Pinky.” She had to overcome major obstacles as a Black performer in the entertainment business, yet she remained dedicated to her work and pushed herself creatively until she passed away in 1977.


In summary, Ethel Waters was a trailblazing singer who dismantled prejudice and opened the path for other Black performers. She was a gifted actor, singer, and performer who utilized her platform to speak out against inequity and injustice. Her music and performances touched the hearts of numerous fans. Despite facing numerous difficulties and setbacks over the course of her career, she never wavered in her dedication to her work and persisted in pushing herself creatively until her passing in 1977. She is now regarded as a true entertainment icon of American culture and a trailblazer who influenced the development of music and society in the 20th century.


– Ma Rainey

– Billie Holiday 

– Duke Ellington 

– Louis Armstrong 


Throughout her career, Ethel Waters was influenced by a wide range of musical genres and artists. She sung in church as a child and was greatly influenced by spirituals and gospel music. Later, she was influenced by early 20th-century jazz and blues music, and she started blending these genres into her own performances. She was also influenced by other well-known artists of the day, such as Alberta Hunter, Ma Rainey, and Bessie Smith, who were all trailblazing Black women in the jazz and blues scenes.


Ethel Waters was nominated for Emmy and Academy awards, NAACP image. She was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

Social Involvement:

Ethel Waters used her song to express how she overcame several difficulties and obstacles as a Black singer in a very segregated and discriminating environment. And her performances as a way to speak out against injustice and inequality.



What's your password?

Login to your account

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.