Eartha Mae Kitt (January 17, 1927 – December 25, 2008)

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R.I.P Eartha (1927-2008)

The singer and actress Eartha Kitt has died at the age of eighty-one. She was blacklisted in 1968 after she spoke out against the Vietnam War at a White House luncheon hosted by Lady Bird Johnson. When Johnson asked her about the Vietnam War, Kitt replied, “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. They rebel in the street. They don’t want to go to school because they’re going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam.” The First Lady reportedly burst into tears. For four years afterward, Kitt performed almost exclusively overseas and was investigated by the FBI and CIA.

Eartha Kitt: “My greatest challenge was to be able to survive in the business and to be able to survive according to what I was doing, not according to what other people were doing. And therefore, I just stuck to my own guns, and I think that’s one of the ways I have survived, is that I didn’t follow the herd. I followed my own path.”

Kitt was born Eartha Mae Keith on a cotton plantation in North, South Carolina, a small town in Orangeburg County near Columbia, South Carolina. Her mother was of Cherokee and African-American descent and her father of German and Dutch descent. She claimed she was conceived by rape.

Kitt was raised by her mother’s sister, Anna Mae Riley, an African-American woman whom she believed to be her mother. Kitt claimed that she suffered abuse and neglect at the hands of a family to whom Anna Mae Riley entrusted her—”given away for slavery,” as she described it in many interviews. Kitt said that as she was given away, she always wondered who would accept her and was afraid of being rejected.[5] After Riley’s death, she was sent to live in New York City with Mamie Kitt, who she learned was her biological mother; she had no knowledge of her father, except that his surname was Kitt and that he was supposedly a son of the owner of the farm where she had been born.[4] Newspaper obituaries state that her white father was “a poor cotton farmer.

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