Ethel Waters

  • Birth Place: Chester, Pennsylvania, United States
  • Died: September 1, 1977
  • Profession: Singer, Actor
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Fast Facts

  • Grew up in Philadelphia.
  • Married the first of her three husbands when she was 13.      
  • Was one of the first African-Americans to appear on television, in a 1939 special, The Ethel Waters Show, on NBC. 
  • Penned two autobiographies: His Eye Is on the Sparrow, which was a best seller, and To Me It's Wonderful.  
  • Won a New York Drama Critics Award in 1950 for her role in The Member of the Wedding.
  • Toured with evangelist Billy Graham's crusades from 1960 to '75.
  • Made TV history when she became the first African-American woman to receive an Emmy nomination, for her 1961 appearance on Route 66. 
  • U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in her honor in September 1994.


  • 1962, Emmy — Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Nominee
  • 1949, Oscar — Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Nominee


  • Norman Joseph Howard — Stepfather
  • Louise Anderson — Mother
  • Merritt 'Buddy' Purnsley — Ex-husband
  • John Waters — Father
  • Clyde Edward Matthews — Ex-husband
  • Edward Mallory — Ex-husband
  • Sally Anderson — Grandmother
  • Genevieve Howard — Half Sister

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