Etta Moten Barnett

(Chicago, Illinois) – Concert artist, Lecturer, Recitalist, Collector of Artifacts, Student of Third World Culture [inducted 1991]

Etta Moten was one of the singers to achieve an international reputation and to concertize in the thirties. She played Bess with Todd Duncan on the Broadway stage in George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess. The opera played in Europe and was made into a movie with various casts. Porgy and Bess is a nationally known American Opera. It is one opera that has achieved world wide fame. Many of the songs from the opera, SummertimeI Got Plenty O’Nottin’, and It Ain’t Necessarily So, have become very popular.

Etta Moten was the first black woman to sing at the White House. The occasion was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birthday. Highlights of her stage career include Broadway performances in Fast and FuriousSugar Hill Zombie, and Lysistrata. Film performances include Flying Down to Rio and The Gold Diggers of 1933. She hosted radio programs in San Francisco and at NBC in Chicago. As a concert artist, she toured Canada, Argentina, Brazil, England, and West Africa.

Mrs. Barnett and her late husband, Claude Barnett, Founder-Director of the Associated Negro Press, represented Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson on official visits to Liberia, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Cameroons. As a private citizen, Etta Moten Barnett has been to the continent over twenty times.

She has been a marvelous mother to three daughters. Her public service includes: the Du Sable Museum of Afro-American History, Chicago Urban League, The Women’s Board of the University of Chicago, Chicago Lyric Opera, and Artist in Residence in the Departments of Music and Drama at the University of Iowa and at Florida A&M University.

A quote from Etta Moten Barnett at the 1991 Pierian Assembly:

“In the final decade of the 20th century, I am delighted to join you in your efforts to discover and encourage the young people. I want you to continue to dream big dreams, for what would we do in this world of ours were it not for the dreams ahead, for thorns that reach through the blooming flowers, no matter what path we tread. Each of us has his golden goal stretching far into the years.”