New Biography on Chester Native Ethel Waters, Groundbreaking Perfomer Once Honored at PMC

March 4, 2011

Chester native Ethel Waters —  honored here in 1972 with the dedication of Ethel Waters Park at Third and Dock Streets, a parade, and a gala tribute held at PMC Colleges  — was a prominent blues and jazz vocalist and actress who is now largely forgotten.  She made a major mark in an career spanning from 1917 to 1972 (she died in 1977), and in 1933 she was the first black actress to perform in an otherwise all white show.

A new biography, Heat Wave: The  Life and Career of Ethel Waters by Donald Bogle, tells the complex story of an “almost tyrannically ambitious artist who broke racial barriers through a delicate and treacherous combination of will and accommodation,” according to a review in The New York Times.

You can find a few images of Waters in the Wolfgram Memorial Library Digital Collections, including the one posted here.   She’s also featured in quite a few clips on YouTube.com.


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