Reference Entry

Kitt, Eartha

Kwakiutl L. Dreher

in American National Biography Online


Published online April 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780198606697 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1803900

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Kitt, Eartha (17 January 1927–25 December 2008), entertainer and actress, was born on a cotton plantation in North, South Carolina, to Annie Mae, a sharecropper of mixed African American and Native American lineage, and an unknown white father. While there is agreement that the child’s birth name was Eartha Mae, her last name is variously given as Keitt, Keith, or Keith-Fields. After Annie Mae’s parents cast her and her child out because of the stigma of illegitimacy, Eartha endured extreme poverty as well as physical and emotional abuse and neglect. In addition relatives and some members from the community ostracized the child because of her light skin. They called her “yella gal,” a pejorative bestowed upon light-skinned African Americans. Eartha never knew the identity of her white father, and this fact haunted her until her death....

Reference Entry.  1317 words. 

Subjects: Voice

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