- 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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